The Fatal Gaze is, in a way, a follow up to last year’s UoT Opera show Last Days in that it consists of a staged performance of pieces of vocal music to a theme. This time the theme is the dangers of seeing or being seen and there’s quite a lot to unpack. The music all lies on an arc from Monteverdi to Gluck and the stories are all taken from classical mythology or thee Bible with some commentary from more modern figures.
It starts and ends, in so many ways, with Orpheo and Euridice. The simplest “don’t look” story of them all perhaps. Here the “look” is transgressive merely because Pluto deems it so and Euridice’s fear is based on perhaps having lost her beauty in death (clearly she didn’t read enough Victorian poetry). The other stories, bar one, all have an element of forbidden sexuality. Acteon spying on Diana and her nymphs, Narcissus and his reflection (an excellent excuse for Handel’s Myself I Shall Adore), Myrrha’s father fixation and the Elders setting up Susanna. All of these, in their individual ways suggest new ways of looking at the Orpheo material. The final piece in the puzzle is the biblical story of Jephte, which is a bit like Idomeneo minus the sea monster. Here hubris seems to be the transgressive element and so far an Orpheo connection has escaped me.
The stories are skilfully linked together in Tim Albery’s bargain basement staging. There are chairs, a few projections of contemporary paintings, a ladder and some coats and hats. And some very good young singer/actors. It’s fast paced and there’s a certain wry humour in which the exact state of undress of the female subject in the projected paintings is described. In itself, that forms an interesting commentary on voyeurism.
Like Last Days this is very much an ensemble piece and there are no programme credits for individual numbers, even when they consisted of a fairly meaty aria like Myself I Shall Adore or Che Faro. So credit to all the ensemble; Kristina Agur, Andrera Lett, Danika Loren, Caitlin McCaughey, Victoria Marshall, Lyndsay Promane, Megan Quick, Daevyd Pepper, Nicholas Borg and Max van Wyck. Accompaniment was played by a small group of instrumentalists; Ivan Jovanovic on harpsichord, Joel Tangjerd, Matt Antel on viola and Dominic Greene and Erick Wawrzkiewicz on violins. Matters musical were directed by David Fallis.
This is a well conceived and well executed show that’s enjoyable and thought provoking in equal measure. You can catch the second and final performance tonight at The Black Box Theatre, 1087 Queen Street West at 7.30pm. PWYC.