Reviews

MACBETH - Verdi
January 2005
St Andrew’s Church
by Coriander Stuttard

Working on a minimalist stage at St Andrew’s Church, Frognal Lane, producer Julia Beynon used simple white drapes as a backdrop against which clever lighting and a few special effects – a fiery, smoking cauldron and lightning – were set. Costumes were not over the top but well designed and striking.
 
And members of the cast excelled in their roles. Zoë South took centre stage in every respect as Lady Macbeth and carried Verdi’s typically Italian, intricate melodies with style and poise. She was well matched
by the other solo roles – William Rae was a great actor as well as singer in his performance as Macbeth and the duets with South were particularly well balanced. Ian Wilson-Pope used his voice especially well in its lower range to give a sombre performance as Banquo.

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THE FORCE OF DESTINY - Verdi

Brent Opera (with The Englefield Ensemble)
24 January 2004
St Andrew’s Church, NW3
by Carlyon Viles

The spacious and formal interior of St Andrew’s Church provided an atmospheric setting for Verdi’s tragic opera, The Force of Destiny, a location particularly appropriate for the monastery scenes where also the sound of the organ lent an awesome detail to the whole.

The orchestra, superbly coordinated by the Musical Director, Stefan Hofkes played with such sensitivity that the sound never became monotonous, and which was particularly effective for the opening night scene in the castle bedroom. The limited colour of the instrumental accompaniment, together with a minimum of scenery, helped to focus all the more intensely on the gloomy plot. Interestingly, the opera as been facetiously dubbed The Force of Circumstances, as there is no real sense of inevitability arising from the characters of the dramatis personae themselves, so the whole is rather a series of dramatic tableaux.

Sara Meadows sustained interest in long stretches of score in the minor mode in her role of Donna Leonora, attaining a note of real pathos at times. Jeff Edwards, in the taxing role of Don Alavaro, produced a true silver-toned heroic tenor sound, contrasting with the darker charcoal-like tones of Geoffrey Horwood, appropriate for the role of Don Carlo, Leonora’s brother, bent on uncompromising revenge. Sarah Tyler, as the gypsy girl, Preziosilla, shed sunlight into the otherwise dark plot, with a brilliant and agile mezzo-soprano voice, comfortable in all registers. John Dawswell was a pillar of order and dignity as the Padre, while Jeremy Lowe played the bumbling Melitone very effectively. The chorus sound was bright and lusty, and their acting also showed equal commitment to the overall success of the opera.

The producer, Julia Beynon, is to be commended for her success in mounting a very enjoyable and well attended production of Verdi’s opera, and travelling from the provinces to see it, I found it a treat to see real opera performed to a high standard by an essentially non-professional company.

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