Gardiner Professor of Music at Glasgow University, John Butt directed the Irish Baroque Orchestra, soloists Ioana Pipelea, Sharon Carty, Thomas Walker, Gyula Nagy, and Resurgam Choir in Handel’s beloved masterpiece in this beautifully redesigned, most appropriate venue. This performance was noteworthy for the brightness and precision of the choral singing and the sensitive, delicately nuanced orchestral playing.
Professor Butt obviously has decided views on tempo and historically correct performance practice, some of which added considerably to the drama inherent in this great work. Others differed greatly from tradition and were quite unconvincing. Some of the tempos that he set caused the music to sound rushed and “jiggy” to my ears but, on the other hand, others caused the music to dance with joy, and more were positively exhilarating. His reluctance to allow notes sound for their full value in, for instance, the ‘Grave’ section of the Overture and the chorus ‘Behold the Lamb of God’ I found particularly disturbing, especially since he demonstrated elsewhere (as in the soprano air ‘If God be for us’) what a wonderful legato line he could draw.
Tenor Thomas Walker’s opening ‘Comfort ye’ immediately set the atmosphere of this great work and, while some of his ornamentations sounded somewhat mannered for my taste, he never lost the sense of drama and his performance of the sequence beginning ‘Thy rebuke hath broken his heart’ was intensely moving. Likewise, baritone, Gyula Nagy’s ‘Why do the nations’ and ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery’ were wonderfully dramatic. I found that Ioana Pipelea’s constant use of vibrato distracting and I would have welcomed more variety of tone colour. Her best singing came in the sequence beginning ‘There were shepherds abiding in the field’. Sharon Carty is a most promising mezzo and her duet ‘O death, where is thy sting’ with Walker was particularly affecting.
The stars of the performance, though, were the IBO and the singers in Resurgam choir, whose brightness, clarity of diction, and response to the conductor’s directions were magnificent.
Needs must. Cuts to theatre funding over the past five years have resulted in a glut of one- and two-man shows, cheap to stage and easily transported. Not all have been successes. Happily, Pat Kinevane’s Silent is all that is best about the trend.
Kinevane, pictured below, penned and stars in this account of Tino McGoldrig, a homeless man from Cobh, long-exiled on the streets of Dublin. His stage props are minimal — a blanket, a begging bowl — and yet he conjures up the whole sorry picture of a man pushed to the edge of desperation and beyond.
Silent is a tragedy, but it demands of its audience that they laugh long and hard at the absurdities of our social attitudes to the mentally ill. At one point, Tino ridicules a television ad that exhorts viewers to “look after your mental health”, as if those who are depressed could somehow choose not to be.
Tino recalls his upbringing in Cobh, sharing a home with his gay brother, Pearse, and their violent mother. Pearse is bullied constantly, and makes several attempts on his own life. The most bizarre is when he jumps from the roof of the Metropole Hotel, during the Cork Jazz Festival, only to become entangled in telephone wires and left dangling high above the pavement.
The dysfunction of Tino’s first family was mirrored by that of his second, as his drinking caused the break-up of his marriage and the loss of his relationship with his young son, whose bib he still carries in his pocket. From there, it seems, Tino had nowhere to go but his Aunt Rita’s, the mental home, and the street.
Silent is not a straight-forward narrative. Rather, Tino dips in and out of a number of stories, referring throughout to the films of Rudolf Valentino, after whom he was named.
Kinevane’s performance is extraordinary: his take on Tino is by turns preening, petulant and pitiful. The depth and breadth of the character is testament to the two years of research Kinevane put in before premiering the show in 2011. Silent remains the one-man show that trumps all others.