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Salieri Prima la Musica & Mozart The Impresario

Opera At Home Grimeborn Opera Festival

Ercola Theatre, Dalston, 25 August 2011

Wolfgang Amadé Mozart and Antonio Salieri produced their two one act operas in a contest held in Schönbrunn, 1786. Salieri's won; Mozart’s opera was given as a prelude before the Imperial Court Composer's offering. Prima la Musica, Poi le Parole was twice as long and a huge success. Salieri also received twice as much money for his piece. [Richard Strauss revisited that historic debate in his Capriccio.]

Opera at Home wisely reversed the ordering; to our ears Mozart's music (composed after Entfuhrung, and to the latter's librettist, Gottlieb Stephanie) is far superior, and the plot clearer - with contemporary resonances in Simon Callow's pointed text.

Salieri didn't murder Mozart (pacé Rimsky-Korsakov) but unless he was deaf to Mozart's genius might have had some such thoughts, even though he'd been paid twice as much money for his piece.

Opera at Home is a fully professional company (director Jose Gandia) and fields two completely different casts for this double bill, adapting their performances to a range of smaller venues.

Arcola Theatre is an attractive conversion of a one-time East London factory, and its size (several hundreds in the audience) allowed for free stage movement in good acoustics - the orchestra of five, in contrast to just two for the Mozart as seen previously at Greenwich - below - gave excellent support, with no regrets that there was not a full orchestra in attendance.

There were two sopranos in each show, disputing for primacy; all four were excellent singer and actors, with promising futures. The productions were suitably complex and had been rehearsed to a high level. All of them opera singers to look out for.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) K. 486 at Greenwich Payhouse

Iris Korfker, Susanne Heard, Randy Nichol, Merrin Lazyan, Dario Dugandzic,
Victor Sgarbi, Alexia Mankovskaya
Actors: Jaymes Aaron, Thom Pritchard, Benjamin Gould, Leah Weiner
Jose Gandia (Director), Alexia Mankovskaya (Artistic Director), Pina Russo (Set Design), Esengul Sassi (Costume Design)
Richardo Gosalbo (Musical Director) Mizuka Yamamoto (violin)

Greenwich Playhouse, London 24 July 2011

Singers are being trained for professonal opera in greater numbers than can be accommodated in the regular opera houses, and different venues to attract new audiences are proliferating, from country houses to London pubs e.g. The Minotaur Music Theatre with Don Giovanni, Cox and Box & Dido at The Rosemary Branch, Islington reviewed by Musical Pointers.

Opera at Home has completed a Sundays Lunchtime season at Greenwich Playhouse, a theatrical jewel in South East London, notable for innovative work and enterprising repertoire. This Mozart, updated with spoken dialogue by Simon Callow reflecting today's financial climate in the Arts alongside that of the 18th C, was paired with Salieri (we were commiserated with for having missed First the music, then the words).

The better known Mozart, with its two rival prima-donnas, was a sure fire success, well played and sung; a fine way to spend a Sunday lunchtime hour in a pub as an alternative to the more usual jazz gigs.

The production was elaborate in characterisation of each of its go-getting figures, and very funny.

The music was sung in the original German and the 'orchestra' was reduced to violin and piano (an electric upright with convincing registration) with remarkable success; everything just right for this small space.
[See full plot summary]

A hit, a palbable hit!

Look out for The Impresario and First the music, then the words somewhere near you. And trust that Opera at Home will be booked to return to Greenwich?

Peter Grahame Woolf