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Mozart, Falla & Puccini

Opera UK at The Bloomsbury Theatre

Mozart & Falla – 20 April 2006


Mozart – The Impresario

Director – Tim Heath

Music Director & Pianist – Derek Carden


Braham Tick – John Lofthouse

Philip Norris – Vincent Pirillo

Chocolata Church – Anja Rossau

Kiri von Hausfraut – Eileen Hulse


De Falla – El Amor Brujo

Director – Scheherazade Pesante

Music Director & Pianist - Stephen Hose

Choreographer – Miriam Faura


Cabron – Jose Merino

Estrella – Sheherazade Pesante

Anillo – Miriam Faura

Vengeance Spirit – Mark Skipper


Opera UK , who debuted last autumn, have now found themselves a comfortable new home at the Bloomsbury Theatre, bringing their performances to the West End fringe.


Mozart's Der Schauspieldirektor was an inspired choice for a company of this type. The singspiel was originally written as a topical diversion for the imperial court, with just four musical numbers interspersed between a great deal of comic dialogue as various actors audition for well known contemporary, but now long forgotten plays. Tim Heath has made a splendid job of cutting down the speaking roles and focussing on the problems of an impoverished opera company “Tick Box Opera” as it struggles to raise funding.


In the opening sequence Artistic Director, Braham Tick (John Lofthouse) presents a very slick slide show to tobacco tycoon and potential backer, Philip Norris (Vincent Pirillo) demonstrating how the company meets the directives, initiatives, and generally jumps through all the benchmark hoops (achievement, education, diversity, opportunity, out-reach, in-reach, shake-yourself-about-reach) that are required of 21 st century Arts organisations.


Norris cuts to the chase and introduces first his wife, Kiri von Hausfraut (Eileen Hulse) and then his secretary, Chocolata Church (Anja Rossau) who will take leading parts. No need for them to audition, but each sings an aria to demonstrate her credentials. Who will take the lead? - the ladies' turn to song in a splendid fighting duo. In the end they will share the title role of Carmen. Tick's plaint that this role won't suit high sopranos is over-ruled – the music can be re-written – this is all about product placement and the all important cigarette factory setting for this opera.


It was carried off with aplomb – good direction and excellent performances all round – enormous fun!


The second half of the bill was devoted to the music of Manuel de Falla's beginning with his Siete Canciones Populares sung by Scheherazade Pesante. She injected a fiery gypsy temperament into her performance and the songs showed her voice to best advantage.


She was then joined on the darkened stage by three dancers for El Amor Brujo with original choreography by Miriam Faura. The dancing was spirited and acrobatic (especially the sinuous Vengeance Spirit of Mark Skipper who is also a gymnastics champion), good use was made of costumes and lighting, all accompanied by the lively piano playing of Stephen Hose and the insistent rhythm of castanets. A thoroughly enjoyable evening's entertainment.


Mozart & Puccini


The Bloomsbury Theatre – 22 April 2006

Director – Jane McCulloch

Music Director & Pianist - Stephen Hose


Scheherazade Pesante - soprano

Gediminas Varna - tenor

Telman Guzhevsky - tenor

David Swift - Narrator


Mozart – School for Lovers


Ferrando – Jim Heath

Gugliemo – Edmund Connolly

Don Alfonso – Anthony Scales

Fiordiligi – Alison Guill

Dorabella – Hannah Mason

Despina Thomasin Trezise

Narrator – David Swift


Opera UK had presented Tosca and Cosi fan tutte in their opening season, and this evening's double bill was in many ways an encore of those two productions.


It's not easy to find one young tenor who can sing a Puccini aria convincingly, so to come up with two is a considerable achievement. Gediminas Varna (Cavaradossi last October) has an enormous voice, and is fully committed. Telman Guzhevsky (a newcomer to Opera UK) has a more sensitive approach – a true Italianate tenor. Both are singers worth watching out for. Scherherazade Pesante took on all the soprano roles, big performances projecting waves of emotion, though sometimes at the expense of accuracy.


They treated us to a medley of favourite Puccini arias strung together by a dryish narration from David Swift.


After the interval it was the turn of Mozart and a 55 minute distillation of Cosi fan tutte, with just one change to last October's cast – (promising young baritone Edmund Connolly taking over the role of Gugliemo from John Lofthouse who had moved on to the title role in The Impresario ).


These days it is the norm for directors to spin all sorts of subplots into Cosi and we've become accustomed to some pretty bleak endings. On this occasion without the scenery, props and costume changes of the original production, it looked as though a bit of last minute improvisation had been required and it was presented in an atmosphere of cheerful camaraderie and good spirits. Music Director and Pianist Stephen Hose could have given the singers a bit more help in the ensembles – but Mozart's glorious music just about carried the day.


© Serena Fenwick