Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Last Confession

His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth

reviewed by Neville Cohn

To experience Roger Crane‘s play The Last Confession is to be drawn into a unique and

fascinating world which is as mysterious as it is intriguing, an all­ male environment in which

power play is the order of the day. Into this curious world in which subtle backstabbing is a highly

developed art, comes a newly elected pope who is strikingly different to all those who went before


He takes the name John Paul and is quickly dubbed The Smiling Pope. It is undeniable that at one

level, he seems a perpetually beaming innocent. But behind this facade is a shrewd judge of men

determined to restructure the church for the better.

Unsurprisingly, this alarms the Curia, that secretive ring of clerics that surrounds the pontiff

perpetually. These men fear that their world of influence is imperilled. Then, little more than a

David Suchet

David Suchet Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann

month in the job, Pope John Paul 1 is found dead in bed. Ever since, there have been swirling rumours about how the Pontiff met his end.

David Suchet, best known for his TV role as Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous little Belgian detective, is a central figure. And his quiet, unobtrusive presence dominates the production.

Sporting a tiny, pale mauve skull cap in Act 1, he could as easily pass as a rabbinical figure as a Catholic heavy weight. His every word was made meaningful.

In this production there are no weak links. It’s an ensemble piece, each character clearly defined, as scarlet ­robed cardinals as well as some lesser clerics and the Pope endeavour – for a variety of reasons ­ to deal with the unsavoury goings­ on at the Vatican’s scandal­ ridden bank.

Richard O’Callaghan in the pivotal role of the luckless Pope John Paul I does wonders in giving point and meaning to the role. Donald Douglas is completely convincing as Pope Paul VI as is Philip Craig as the Confessor. And Stuart Milligan does wonders as the ethically challenged

Bishop Marcinkus.

A remarkable and rapidly adjustable all­ purpose set serves variously as a number of locations

within the Vatican with a few props – a table, a few chairs and the like.

Laurels to the backstage staff who skilfully, silently and rapidly moved set and props about in

semi­ darkness.

Stopping By

Kyle Bielfield (tenor)/ Lachlan Glen (piano)

DECC A 481 1163

TPT: 71’ 54”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Kyle Bielfield - Stopping By

This is one of the most satisfying CD debuts I can recall in years.

I had not known of Kyle Bielfield’s work as tenor until I listened to this compilation. I’d come

home late at night after a very long day when I found the CD in my mailbox. I thought I’d listen to

a couple of tracks before turning in for a much needed rest. But having a sleep was put on hold for

more than an hour because this was musicmaking far too persuasive to leave over for the morning.

I savoured each minute of this splendid musicmaking.

Kyle Bielfield sings the words as if they really mean something rather than just as a medium for

producing a pleasing sound; he’s a storyteller who draws the listener into the idiosyncratic world

of each song. But there’s more – far more – to these recordings than even this. Australian

accompanist Lachlan Glen reaches for the stars in each miniature, doing wonders in assisting the

singer to establish the unique essence of each art song. These recordings are a model of integrated

musicianship at a very high level.

In a broad sense, American art songs – North American relations to German lieder and the French

chanson – have yet to establish themselves firmly in an international; sense. And what Bielfield

and Glen are doing so persuasively through recordings such as this is to bring American art song to

a wider constituency – and not before time. Michael Samis’ contributions on cello are masterly.

There are established favourites – Copland’s setting of Simple Gifts, Amy Beach’s Autumn Song,

Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer. But there are also vocal miniatures that deserve to be far, far

better known than they, in fact, are. There are no fewer than three settings of Stopping by Woods

on a Snowy Evening by Samuel Barber, John Duke and Ned Rorem respectively. And with

performances of such insight and skill, there’s every reason to believe these will be taken up by an

international constituency.

Many of these songs were a revelation for me – and in the most positive sense. I hope they are for

you, too.