Directed for National Opera by Peter Colman- Wright.
Wesley Centre Canberra – 2nd May 2021
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
“Le Nozze di Figaro” (The Marriage of Figaro), is the first in a series conceived by Artistic Director Peter Coleman-Wright, as part of his mission for Canberra’s National Opera to become and inclusive, community-driven company providing a safe and vibrant platform for Australian singers, directors and conductors to hone their craft and gain much needed performance experience.
Essentially stripped-down versions of well-known operas, the pocket operas contain the essence of the story and all the favourite musical moments but without many of the trappings and requirements of a full production. Participating singers are allotted roles and expected to have them learnt by the beginning of rehearsals.
Directed by Coleman-Wright himself, this inaugural production, which saw the original opera reduced from around three hours to just on one, was sung in the original Italian by a cast of nine.
Among them, Tristan Entwistle (Figaro) is already a member of chorus of Opera Australia. Katrina Wiseman (Susanna) is a graduate of the ANU School of Music, and has studied in Italy, Brisbane and Sydney and participated in several young artist programs. Michaela Edelstein (Cherubino) is a graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has sung in Munich and Verona and with Pacific Opera.
Performers familiar to local opera lovers through their performances in leading roles in previous opera productions in Canberra, Colin Milner (Il Counte) and Erika Tolano (La Contessa) both have overseas opera experience , while Karyn Tisdell (Marcellina) has considerable experience both in Opera and Musical Theatre productions in the Canberra region.
Both Andrew Barrow (Basilio) and Lily Ward (Barbarino) are studying at the Australian National University, while Brendan Palazzi (Antonio) is studying singing with a private teacher.
Stylishly accompanied on piano by Ella Luhtasaari, and performing to a supportive audience on a simple setting of screens, table and chair with only the most necessary of props, all gave spirited performances.
Coleman-Wright’s direction was light allowing the singers to concentrate on the vocal demands of their roles, rather than character development.
The opera was given just two performances on the same day, and the performances were videoed so the singers will be able to review their own performances which not unexpectedly, varied from very good to looking a bit lost and forgetting to maintain character once they stopped singing.
However as training exercises these Pocket Operas are going to be invaluable. Singers will have opportunity to build their repertoires and performance skills, while their audiences will be able to see operas they may not previously been able to experience, and make their own assessments as to the progress of favourite singers towards, hopefully, glittering operatic careers.
The next Pocket Opera is “ Die Zauberflote” (The Magic Flute) which will be given two performances in Albert Hall on 27th June. Watch out for it.