Opera review: Opera Off Broadway, Raye Freedman Arts Centre

By William Dart

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Gianni Schicchi inspires a beautifully observed ensemble performance from the 15-strong cast.
Gianni Schicchi inspires a beautifully observed ensemble performance from the 15-strong cast.

Opera Factory's double bill of Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi is a refreshing reminder, for those who judge opera by a handful of hardy mainstage perennials, what a rich potential this art form has.

Bernstein's hip take on suburban marital ennui is elegantly laid out by director Sally Sloman on a sleek, uncluttered stage, shared by Rosemary Barnes' ever-eloquent grand piano. A slick jazz trio of Kelly Harris, Adrian du Toit and Arthur Adams-Close, croons, scats, dances and shifts furniture in between.

Sparks fly when Kayla Collingwood and Andrew Conley bicker as the unhappy couple, but Collingwood comes closest to nailing the Broadway pizzazz in her big aria, cataloguing the horrors of Z-grade movies with flurries of coloratura and spurts of rumba frenzy.

After interval, Gianni Schicchi inspires a beautifully observed ensemble performance from Sloman's cast of 15, quirky enough on the visual side to inspire a sharp but affectionate caricaturist's pen.

From scene-setting crocodile sobs and a rainstorm of rifled papers during a search for a will, to the occasional conga lines of collusion; the momentum never gives up.

Jarvis Dams steals the show as the opportunistic Gianni Schicchi, pacing the room of death as if spinning a deal in court, and absolutely hilarious when aping the deceased man's frail voice.

In the fragments allotted them, Filipe Manu's Rinuccio impresses singing of the delights of fair Florence and, thanks to Madison Nonoa, "O mio babbino caro" is once again one of those moments in which time itself seems to stand still.

What: Opera Off Broadway
Where: Raye Freedman Arts Centre
When: Thursday

- NZ Herald

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