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St Mary's College,
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Opera Viva has undertaken 10 fully staged Opera Productions in the eight years since the inception of the company.
Auditions September, 2018
Because "Eugene Onegin" had two casts for several important roles, NODA very kindly sent two separate reviewers.
Fortunately they were in agreement about the performance of the cast and chorus,and each agreed that all the singers, especially Heather and Louise who shared the very demanding part of Tatyana.
Eugene Onegin – Opera Viva – 15.4.16
Before I begin on this specific production I just want to say how very much I admire and respect this group who present fully staged and costumed grand operas in the most ‘ordinary’ venues and ‘tour’ with their current production to 4 or 5 different venues over a period of 2 -3 weeks. For example I saw this current production in Holy Trinity Church Hall in Southport and the day afterwards they present the same show in a school hall in Liverpool. In this way, they are bringing grand opera, sung in English, to a wide variety of people who would otherwise have little or no access to it, at affordable prices and in a language they immediately understand. As if that were not challenge enough, they often double cast some of the roles, in this production no fewer than 5 roles were double cast – so giving as many as possible a chance to perform as soloists.
All this sounds as if I am going to go on to say that the production was somewhat below par when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. It is true to say that the ‘staging’ is, by necessity, rather basic, but the singing is everything you could possibly expect (and more) from any opera company wherever they are performing, the singers I was privileged to hear would not have disgraced any theatre, amateur or professional, the length and breadth of the country. Added to that and enhancing the production enormously, the acting was similarly impressive so that if we did ‘miss’ the words the acting made their meaning more than clear.
They are accompanied by a piano and whilst the music of Tchaikovsky does lend itself wonderfully to an orchestra so talented was the pianist, Robert Chesters that it certainly did not suffer. I must also mention the M.D., Marco Bellasi, who was conducting, his passion for the music was so apparent, that he became very much a part of the whole production.
This was an opera I was totally unfamiliar with however I left at the end of the evening with a firm grasp on the story (having been considerably humbled by the standard of the wonderful singing) which I had thoroughly enjoyed, as a total piece of theatre, telling a story from beginning to end, with all the high drama of a dual and unrequited love thrown in for good measure and I heard and understood the vast majority of the words – what could be better.
Regular readers of my reviews will know that it is rare that I mention any performer by name in this case however I feel I must make an exception – although all the singers ranged from good to excellent Heather Heighway who played Tatyana (on the night I attended) was simply superb. This was a huge role which she performed (both singing and acting) excellently – thank you.
I must also mention the chorus – the sound from the back of the hall in Act 1 was simply breath-taking – real ‘hairs on the back of the neck’ wonderful.
There is really noting further I can say – I want to mention more of the principals but to do so would be grossly unfair to any I missed out – suffice it to say you all did a wonderful job and thank you SO much for a simply wonderful evening, and for making me so very welcome.
Eugene Onegin 16.4.16
I was privileged to see the second performance of Eugene Onegin presented by Opera Viva and I would like wholeheartedly to agree with the above review. I was invited to see this performance as a number of the principal roles were to be played for one night only by alternative cast members during Opera Viva’s four-night tour. I would like to mention Louise Geatch who gave an excellent performance as Tatyana, her acting and singing was superb and due to the closeness of the audience to the singers you could easily see the myriad of feelings and the conflicts her character was going through. As my colleague highlighted above I would like to have mentioned more of the principles but I would not like to miss anyone out, but all the principles did a very good job acting and singing admirably with good diction and clarity of words meaning the audience could follow the story easily. There was also some lovely spine tingling singing from the chorus who supported the principle cast well.
As previously mentioned due to the limitations of the venue scenes were set with the use of props which was more than adequate and effective, and costumes also enhanced and fitted the production well.
This was an excellent evening’s entertainment, listening to wonderful singing and watching superb acting. I firmly believe that Opera should be more accessible to everyone and Opera Viva are fulfilling this belief. Well done to Producer David Palmer, Assistant Producer Jim Craig and Chorus Master Isobel Jenkins and all involved in this production Thank you very much for inviting us and making us very welcome. We look forward to seeing you for your next production.
Producer David Palmer
Musical Director John Flood
Carmen is an opera written in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet and is one of the world’s best known and most successful operas. It was first performed in Paris on the 3rdMarch 1875 and. initially was not well received. Bizet suddenly died at the age of 36years, just three months after its premier so he did not live to see its success. Carmen is written in the genre of opéra comique with musical numbers separated by dialogue. The music of Carmen has been acclaimed for its melody, harmony, atmosphere and orchestration, and for the way which Bizet represented, musically, the emotions and suffering of his characters. The version performed by Opera Viva was spoken and sung in English.
In this production staging was very simple with a minimalistic open set in a studio style theatre which was very effective for this type of production. There was no special lighting or sound; however there was some very efficient changing of props between acts
There were some very nice performances in this production, well done to Isobel Jenkins for her portrayal of Carmen, her character is involved in a lot of the action in this opera and she kept up her characterisation and sang well throughout. Robert Driver sang nicely and gave a confident performance as the lovesick Don Jose’ and David Palmer was in admirable voice as Escamillo a Toreador, I really enjoyed the Toreador’s Song. Louise Geatch sang and acted beautifully as Micaela, her rendition of ‘All Alone in this desolate Place’ was particularly enjoyable. Mercedes and Frasquita were played and sung well by Clare Hyams and Pam Ashcroft, their rendition of the Card Trio along with Isobel as Carmen was also very pleasurable. Peter McColgan who played Morales as well as Remendado and Steve Riordan as Zuniga both gave solid supportive performances. There were other supportive performances by Horris Willet as Doncaire, Robert West as Lillas Pastia and Jan Monkley as Manuelita
The chorus sung enthusiastically and appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely. The result was some good choral sounds during the ensemble pieces. Although on a few occasions there was a little too much action from the chorus which did detract a little from the principals.
Musical Director was John Flood and well done to the accompanist Robert Chesters who was outstanding supporting the cast admirably throughout the performance. There were a few occasions when performers were noticeably watching the musical director very closely for cues and timing which should have been a little less obvious. Not sure the reasoning behind this, although it did not detract from our enjoyment.
Costumes were very colourful and appeared to fit the needs of the production very well. It was obvious some thought had gone into getting the costumes together.
Overall this was a very enjoyable energetic production, so well done to Producer David Palmer and Assistant Producer Vivienne Sharp for a very enjoyable evening., Well done to all involved both front and back stage and thank you for making me welcome. I hope to see you again for your next production.
Carmen – Opera Viva
Alongside these productions we have undertaken many concerts.
In 2012 we produced " Prince Orlofski's Ball" a compilation of all the favourite music from Viennese Operetta.