W.A.Opera Company and Chorus
His Majesty’s Theatre
reviewed by Neville Cohn
In more than half a century of attending opera productions here and abroad, I cannot recall so frankly delightful a production of Donizetti’s comic masterpiece. What, I wonder, would the composer have thought of his opera being set in the Australian outback during WW1 with the male chorus on horseback kitted out as cavalry?
Simon Phillips has done wonders with the work, underscoring its comic dimension to a gratifying degree and giving the opera as a whole a freshness of conception in visual terms that clearly – and understandably – delighted a capacity audience.
It scores high on the ‘zany’ gauge. Horses are made of what looks like cut-out corrugated cardboard. The same goes for dogs and sheep. And sets are the perfect backdrop for on-stage comedy in an outback setting.
It was an inspiration to cast Rachelle Durkin and Aldo di Toro as the leads. Each was perfectly suited to the role in both vocal and theatrical terms. And as a duo, the operatic chemistry could hardly have been bettered. It sizzled.
Durkin has a priceless comic gift which, allied to a voice in top form, makes her an artist of formidable ability. She was in A1 form as Adina. Aldo di Toro, too, was in splendid fettle, reaching for – and touching – the stars. He is perfectly suited to the role of Nemorino.
Marco Nistico was a most convincing Dr Dulcamara, that shonkiest of snake-oil salesmen, a purveyor of extremely dubious remedies for just about any ailment. And Jennifer Barrington was a delightful Gianetta. Laurels, too, to Jose Carbo who wsas in fine form as Belcore.
From the pit, Stuart Stratford presided over a reduced-size WASO. Tempi were almost invariably sensible and workable. Adam Mikulicz played, beautifully, the bassoon introduction to Una furtive lagrima, the singing of which quite rightly brought the house down..
Of the women’s chorus, this: the singing was delightful, the ladies seeming positively to embrace their roles, underscoring the comic dimension of the work with gusto. The male chorus did well, too.