Posts Tagged ‘Amy Freston’

Ruddigore, Opera North, Barbican, November 2011

25 November, 2011

W. S. Gilbert, the librettist for this work, was a master of wit, not just on paper but spontaneously in conversation. When a neighbour referred admiringly to Ruddigore calling it Bloodygore, Gilbert objected, so the neighbour said: “Same thing isn’t it?” WSG was swift as a rapier, “If I admire your ruddy countenance, it doesn’t mean I like your bloody cheek, which I don’t”.

All images Robert Workman

There’s no blood in Ruddigore, but there is a ghostly episode after our hero, Robin has reluctantly accepted his real name of Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, whose position as the Lord of Ruddigore gives him the accursed obligation of committing a crime a day. Failure to do so condemns him to death. His attempted crimes are rather inadequate, and in Act II ancestral paintings come to life to accuse him of failure. This pantomime-like episode was very well done, with excellent sets and lighting by Richard Hudson and Anna Watson. All seems lost, but the trick in the plot is that the honest Robin suddenly realises that failure to commit a crime is suicide, which itself is a crime …

Robin and Rose, just before the intervention

Robin was delightfully sung and portrayed by Grant Doyle, a versatile performer whom I last saw as a bearded Abraham in Clemency, a serious Biblical opera by James MacMillan. His beloved Rose Maybud was beautifully sung by Amy Freston whose body movements were those of a ballerina. She even did a small jeté en tournant at the end, and the sheer joy of her performance was a charm in itself. Robin’s foster-brother, Dick Dauntless was engagingly performed by Hal Cazalet, and the rest of the cast formed an excellent team around these three principals, including Heather Shipp as the Mad Margaret, Steven Page as the ancestral Sir Roderic, Richard Burkhard as the sly Sir Despard, and Anne-Marie Owens as Dame Hannah, all well directed by Jo Davies.

The ghosts of Ruddigore

Sullivan’s music was played with wit and enthusiasm under the direction of John Wilson, and it was a pleasure to see a performance of this lesser-known operetta from the Gilbert and Sullivan stable.

Performances at the Barbican continue until November 26 — for details click here.

Parthenogenesis, Royal Opera House, Linbury Studio, June 2009

14 June, 2009


When the curtain fell the audience waited for a scene change that never came. Eventually someone applauded and when this was taken up, the curtain lifted so the cast could take bows — it was the end of the opera.

The inspiration for this opera was far more striking than the result. In 1944 in Hanover a young woman was thrown to the pavement by a bomb blast nearby, suffered minor injuries, and nine months later gave birth to a daughter. The girl was said to have identical fingerprints, and other genetic indicators, to her mother, who insisted that she had never had sex with anyone. Doctors confirmed this seemed to be the case, and conjectured that the shock of the bomb may have triggered parthenogenesis — non-sexual reproduction — a word derived from the Greek parthenon meaning a young maiden.

On this unlikely theme the composer James MacMillan has created a 50-minute opera in which an adult clone named Anna lies in hospital in the last stages of ovarian cancer. In her sleep she recalls her mother’s meeting a fallen angel who visits her bedroom to inform her she will give birth without first having sex. The mother and the angel are singing roles, performed by Amy Freston and Stephan Loges, while Charlotte Roach took the spoken role of Anna. The text was by Michael Symmonds Roberts, and while James MacMillan is a composer inspired by intellectual and religious themes, he seems to be no man of the stage. As a piece of theatre this simply didn’t work.