Review: Live music - Two Short Operas on Love and Lies, Kilkenny Arts Festival

A fuming husband, a wife with a guilty secret and a jilted lover on the verge of a nervous breakdown are the main protagonists in a pair of short operas on the theme of love and lies presented by Opera Theatre Company at the Watergate Theatre during Kilkenny Arts Festival.

Wolf Ferrari’s frothy late Romantic comedy, Susanna’s Secret, stood out as one of the more light-hearted offerings on this year’s festival programme with an emphasis on the titanic music of JS Bach and English Renaissance composers.

The plot of the early 20th century work is based on a marital misunderstanding. Gil sniffs the smoke in the air and suspects his wife of having an affair.

After an hour or so of frenetic interaction, he finally catches her in the act and, without giving the game away, all’s well in a snoggin’, smokin’ conclusion.

Baritone Rory Musgrave had a terrific comic touch, bringing a slapstick physicality to the role of the combustible Gil.

Rachel Croash displayed a beautiful sustained tone in the blissful Hamlet cigar moments. Ian Whyte was very effective as silent Sante contributing much to the hilarity with mere raised eyebrow and gestures.

The score arranged for piano trio by Andrew Synnott was executed with verve and élan by Synnott , Lynda O’Connor and Ailbhe McDonagh. Verismo opera is not often associated with comedy but Susanna’s Secret in this lively translation by Tom Swift was a hoot.

Director Tom Creed places some of the action in the stalls drawing the audience further into the plot.

Presented as a contrasting companion piece, Poulenc’s opera, The Human Voice was unremittingly bleak based on a suicidal woman’s one-sided telephone conversation with her ex-lover.

The intense claustrophobia of the gloomy plot was redeemed by the elegant sensuous piano playing of virtuoso, Michael McHale, in a rare foray into the opera field and the sheer beauty and strength of Cork native Kim Sheehan’s soprano voice in a hugely demanding role.

Rating: ****

Opera Theatre Company will tour Two Short Operas About Love And Lies to 10 venues nationwide from November 11. www.opera.ie


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