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Peri - O miei giorni

Ffleur Wyn soprano

Transition Opera directed by
Netia Jones & Frances Mayhew
Wilton's Music Hall, 8 August 2010

Transition Opera take "a look at love through the eyes of a teenage girl and the diaphragm of an older woman; bold, helter skelter views on life, happiness, misery, home, the world and everything else".

Well, that blurb promised something jollier than their Dowland project 2008, which was steeped in gloom from beginning to end.

O miei giorni is however based largely upon laments by Jaccopo Peri, court composer to the Medicis (1561-1633, Florence), who was in at the virtual creation of "opera", which flowered in Monteverdi's masterpieces which have achieved regular places in the repertoire.

This monodrama is more to be compared - and not unfavourably - with Poulenc's Voix Humaine (the first opera ever created for just one singer - a suicidal woman on the phone for forty minutes) which Claire Booth will be giving for Transition Opera in the autumn.

Transition Opera is a team enterprise headed by Netia Jones* and it seems to have come a long way since last encountered; this show is a complex bringing together of realistic staging (distinguished opera singer Fflur Wyn in her bedroom a staggeringly believable teenager buffeted by the pangs of adolescent love), with complex video treatment including an artistic presentation with cartoons, and incorporating the texts and translations taken - I guess - from the back-up literature to Naxos 8.557538, where most of the Peri songs can be heard.

The elaborate programme (R) has a collage of the videos seen, with images of Fleur and the putative guitar-strumming not quite boy-friend. The Happy Ending - for which one yearned with her - never came, though the video operator assured me it was such, because our heroine "chucked" the boy at the finish and joined in folksy jollity (image top R).

Before that, it was one lament after another, which would have made for restless listening without the brilliant contribution of a group of leading Early Music specialist instrumentalists on harps, viola da gamba/lirone & chitarrone/baroque guitar; a very classy show. I hope to see O Miei Giorni again during Transition Opera's residency at Kings Place in November: (Mon 22nd Nov 2010 - Sun 28th Nov 2010) ‘Transition bring integrity and intelligence to the task of bringing video into classical music.’ The Times '.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* - - the most imaginative director of opera working in Britain today' Observer

Peri O Miei Giorni

Fflur Wyn soprano
Joy Smith harp
Emilia Benjamin Lirone
David Miller chitarrone

Transition Opera: Netia Jones director/video designer

Going back to see again something you had enjoyed immoderately is risky (q.v. Cosi fan tutte last week, which lacked lustre on a 2nd visit).

O Miei Giorni was less convincing than at Wilton's in August - a nearly empty Kings Place Hall 1 was discouraging, that venue far less congenial or suitable. The splendid colourful programme (top, L & R) was junked in favour of Kings Place standard format (L).

For its revival, O Miei Giorni was bracketed with a highly praised La Voix Humaine (Claire Booth)**.

Was Ffleur Wynn [R] not in best voice, or was the Hall 1 acoustic to blame that she was no longer quite the "staggeringly believable teenager"? And I wondered - more so than previously - why the trio of early musicians used a modern harp?

We were able to admire again the sophistication of the video treatment in a situation which precluded expensive stage production, that kept very simple. Video in opera has become inceasingly important (q.v. the Valencia Ring). But the crux is, probably, the musical basis of this opera; a sequence of samey Peri laments which made its 70 minutes feel much longer; some people left well before the end...

We will certainly hope to keep up with Transition Opera's future projects.


**q.v. The Guardian The tradition of presenting innovative, first-rate concerts to derisorily small audiences is now well established at Kings Place - - some 50 bums on 50 scattered seats- - an exceptional soprano like Claire Booth in a one-off performance of Poulenc's telephone opera La Voix Humane , produced by a company that has often sold out other small venues - - Netia Jones's video subtly enhanced the content - - you've got to wonder what the marketing department does all day?