A DIFFICULT OPERA TO SING, YET….
Diva Opera, the foremost English chamber opera group which comes regularly to the Vézère Festival, is quite undaunted by any challenge. To start an eagerly awaited lyrical weekend, this year it offered us no less than Mozart. And not just any Mozart! It was the big brother of the Magic Flute: Die Entfurhung aus dem Serail.
It is a singspiel, that is to say a comic opera with spoken dialogue. History will tell you that this opera was the foundation of all German opera. Equally it is the big brother to the Masonic Magic Flute, for Mozart had met the masons in London while composing this opera. He went back to Masonic themes two years later but here nods towards them by including an Englishwoman in his libretto. On a more serious note, this opera is filled with fundamental themes which are found in all his works: the brotherhood of man, the forgiveness of sins, clemency versus vengeance, faithfulness, the unity of a couple, the privileged role of the women who – in all of Mozart’s dramas – allows man to elevate himself, and finally the thought of death which liberates one from all passions. Despite the age of the composer – 26 years old – the Entfurhungis a work of great maturity. A masterpiece already.
Matthew Hargreaves (Osmin) et Barbara Cole Walton (Blonde)
– Photo FdV Creafix Studio –
This comedy is therefore to be taken seriously, especially as the vocal demands of Mozart are not minimal. Two roles are particularly perilous, those of Constance and Blonde. To be saluted is the British soprano Gabriella Cassidy for her interpretation both vocally and dramatically in the role of Constance. Her voice is homogeneous and smooth, well projected in all the registers and faultless in the coloratura passages to a top D and added to her engaging acting throughout she renders a very exciting portrayal of her role. The Canadian Barbara Cole Walton is equal to her in the role of Blonde. Bubbly on demand, she leaves poor Osmin with no chance, assailing him with a bold aria, dizzying in its precision, all the way to a high E. Her pretty, fruity timbre and perfect roundness of sound add to the pleasure of listening to this artist. While not quite up to these heights the rest of the cast comes pretty close. Such is the role of Osmin, sung by the bass baritone Matthew Hargreaves, whose rendition is more comic than tragic and whose projection is slightly wanting at the very bottom of his voice; of the tenor John Porter a very able Pedrillo; and of the Belmonte of Ashley Catling. Cameron Menzies’ direction, on a space of 20 square meters (!) centres on movements choreographed by Lauren Poulton that depict well the different relationships between the characters.
From his piano Bryan Evans, the infallible musical director of this company, conducted the entire show to the end whereupon the audience, completely won over, applauded very warmly.
Article put online on the 18thAugust 2018