1 grand Fringe OPERA

Pagliacci

By Pop Goes The Opera, Venue 16 (Holy Trinity Anglican Church)

At the Fringe you can expect most anything. Somewhere young ladies are reading naked (see program: page 107)

Elsewhere you can catch a grand opera.

Granted, there is no symphony orchestra in the pit or heavenly choir in the loft for Ruggero Leoncavallo‘s Pagliacci at the Fringe, but there is no doubt it’s opera as presented by the local company, Pop Goes The Opera (remembered for last year’s excellent Cavalleria Rusticana).

And grand it is. The choir is small but vigorous and the leads sing with strong, classically trained voices. In fact, often forgotten in the vastness of the Jubilee Auditorium is just how powerful the operatic voice is. As Canio (who is also Pagliaccio, passionately played by Danilo Rowley the afternoon I attended) strode by me in the aisle of the church, I felt the force of his voice like a physical blow. It’s the sort of voice that should sing the opera’s signature aria, Vesti La Giubba – and in fact, he does just that in the dying moments of the First Act.

The image of Pagliaccio is the classical one so associated with opera – the clown in full make-up, with tears streaming down his face as he sings of the pain beneath the paint.

Pagliacci is the story of a troupe of itinerant players who arrive to perform an evening of entertainment in a town in rural Italy. The characters are of the classic comic art form, Commedia dell’arte, and the actors correspond with the attributes of the characters they play. And so the coquettish Colombina (Nedda) is winningly played by Cristina Weiheimer. She’s setting hearts aflame as various men vie to either bed or marry her. Husbands are cuckolded and Taddeo (Tonio, played by Bertrand Malo) a “twisted half wit” prowls about seeking sexual congress with the lady. The results are dire and, before the curtain, blood will be shed. Others in the cast include Taylor Dean Fawcett and Ron Long.

And if you can’t figure all that out – don’t worry. The dialogue (and who’s saying what to whom) is projected on a screen at the side of the stage. Pagliacci is one the few operas to be awarded the imprimatur of being featured in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

The small but hardy seven-piece orchestra performs ably under Sara Brooks. Director Glynis Price is obviously well versed in opera staging and ingeniously shrinks the epic to the proportions of the church setting.

How operatic. How delightful. What wonderful acoustics. And how glorious it is to surrender to the seductive melodies of Leoncavallo – surrounded by the soaring Gothic arches and magnificent leaded windows of the Holy Trinity sanctuary.

Photos by Tim Lo

5 out of 5

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