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Subject: An impressive production of Handel's Theodora at Angel Place 6/12/16.
From: Andrew Byrne <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Andrew Byrne <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 28 Dec 2016 10:22:25 +1100

text/plain (107 lines)

Dear Colleagues, 


I was bowled over by the whole operatic experience at Pinchgut Opera and
would recommend it highly for 2017.  Despite an open stage at the City
Recital Hall we saw a virtually fully staged version of this neglected gem
thanks to brilliant director Lindy Hume and maestro Erin Helyard.  


The principal singers were all of the highest calibre, supported by the
'Cantillation' chorus and Pinchgut orchestra.  It is always nice when one
can interact with the performers and at the Recital Hall one walks past the
musicians coming into the theatre.  One could not ignore the huge
contrabassoon both physically (it seemed to be about 3 metres long) as well
as its booming place in the complex score of this baroque opera.  I think I
noted a wooden flute too, reminding us why this brass instrument is still
classified as a 'woodwind'.  


Theodora is a simple but shocking story of early Christians in Roman Antioch
during the pagan festival of Venus and Juno.  One young Roman soldier
converts to Christianity for love while another becomes a sympathiser.  The
staunch and unrepentant Christian is the beautiful young virgin of the


And Valda Wilson sang the role superbly . with dignity and vocal aplomb,
despite being condemned to work in a brothel for her baptismal crime against
the official Roman gods.  


We first meet our protagonists around a large raised table, brilliantly set
as a modern boardroom meeting.  Following amusing domestic preliminaries,
the dignitaries are addressed by Valens, the Roman bully-in-charge, well
sung by basso Andrew Collis.  The love-struck Didymis was played by
Christopher Lowrey, a counter-tenor with a most pleasing voice.  I do not
warm to many male sopranos (David Daniels is tops, of course) yet here was
beauty, style and flair in his rendition of the fiendish vocal lines by
Handel.  Soldier Septimus was regal faced English tenor Ed Lyon and Irene
was played by sumptuous mezzo Caitlin Hulcup . both excellent operatic
voices and actors to wit.  


The start of Act 2 was another piece of theatrical originality being a
drunken bacchanal which started half way through the intermission.  As we
came back into the hall the singers were already lurching around the stage
one by one, bantering with orchestra members, muttering, laughing and
generally making a stage-party by the time we were all seated.  The drama
then took us through all the emotions as Theodora's paramour Didymis becomes
her first customer at the brother, only to swap clothes and attempt escape
under the un-watchful eye of Septimus.   


It is telling that this venue can be so intimate and user-friendly at just
half the price per ticket as Opera Australia which was concurrently engaged
in a Ring series of operas in Melbourne for the very select few who can
afford the time, travel and enormous ticket prices.  One has an overwhelming
feeling of youth, vitality and professional enthusiasm at Pinchgut
performances.  This is quite the opposite of the national opera company
which has become so survival-conscious, negative and pusillanimous in almost
everything it does these days.  And YES, I am very jaded that the Ring was
done in Melbourne rather than Sydney (but spare me the reasons).  However,
hats off to the national company for putting soprano Greta Bradman into La
Boheme next week.  Toi toi toi!  


Get a brochure for Pinchgut in 2017!  And if you want to see serious
international quality opera in an opera house, go to San Francisco!  


Notes by Andrew Byrne .. Wishing all readers a happy and prosperous New Year
for 2017.  


Andrew's blog 


Pinchgut Opera: 



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