Rocking Horse Winner; music by Gareth Williams and libretto by Anna Chatterton, opened last night at the Berkeley Street Theatre. It’s based on the short story by DH Lawrence and is a co-commission of Tapestry Opera and Scottish Opera. There are some changes from the original story. Here Paul is a developmentally challenged adult (on the autism spectrum) rather than a child. The gardener is replaced by his personal care worker who moonlights as a caller at the local racetrack. This has a couple of advantages. It provides something of a rationale for Paul hearing the “voice” of the house and for his apparently inexplicable intuition about race winners and it also means that Paul can be cast as a tenor rather than having to make an awkward choice between a boy soprano or a pants role. As Paul is one of, perhaps the main, character, this simplifies casting considerably. The work is also gently updated. So gently in fact that it’s barely perceptible.
Hidden away up an alleyway behind the COC’s ioffice and rehearsal complex is a very beautiful garden. I say hidden because I lived less than 200m away for 10 years before I discovered it. Last night it made a rather magical setting for Against the Grain Theatre’s new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. The piece is set in a gloomy castle and surrounding forest in Brittany. The high, ivy covered walls and ironwork of the performance space, enhanced by Camelia Koo’s fractured flagstones forming patterns on the grass, evoked the essentially sunless world of Maeterlinck’s poem. Costuming in the style of the period’s composition meshed nicely with the aesthetic of the roughly contemporary space.
It was quite a party at the MacMillan Theatre this afternoon. The MacMillan opened fifty years ago with a production of Britten’s Albert Herring and this afternoon marked the final performance of a new production to celebrate the occasion. Directed by Joel Ivany, it was a straightforward but lively and very well characterised interpretation that brought out many of the very specific and quirky elements of the local culture while taking it mysteriously up market in some ways. (*). Coupled with very good singing by any standard, and this was a student production, it made for a most enjoyable afternoon.
Last night saw the first of two performances of Don Giovanni by the students of the Glenn Gould School at Koerner Hall. Koerner Hall isn’t the easiest venue to do fully staged opera since it is basically a concert hall with very limited lighting and stage facilities. Ashlie Corcoran and Camellia Coo pulled off perhaps the most inventive staging I have seen there by using a giant staircase to link the part of the gallery that wraps around the stage to the stage itself. Within this basic configuration they deployed a few bits and pieces of furniture, mostly couches. It made a very serviceable unit set for the various scenes. The production was set in the 1960s and seemed to revolve around the basic idea of Don Giovanni as a “chick magnet”. All the usual suspects are clearly attracted to him. There’s no hint of coercion in the opening scene with Donna Anna and Zerlina is a very willing seductee. The idea is reinforced in “Deh vieni” when, as Don Giovanni is serenading Donna Elvira’s maid, five or six women make their way to the staircase and down to the man himself.