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Melbourne
Saturday, May 28, 2022

Lyric Opera presents Pygmalion

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There’s much to love about the obscure and simply delightful romp, presented by Lyric Opera  that is Pygmalion; a classic opera re-invented and re-imagined with a sense of fluidity that makes it difficult to differentiate between the “traditional” and the “contemporary”. To this point alone, the production deserves much applause, providing a definitive and strong memory.

Musically, the performance remains true to the period in which Pygmalion was written, with the orchestra comprising of such instruments as alto flute, oboe, and not one but two harpsichords. To hear the musicians; under the careful direction of conductor Pat Miller, take so fully to a delicate, sumptuous and unapologetically Baroque score is worth the ticket price alone.

Seeing not only the main space at Chapel Off Chapel, stripped bare, but a performance set in the round, is all together refreshing. Designers Rob Sowinski and Bryn Cullen having made a decision to break away from a traditional proscenium arch is an intelligent choice that creates duality, connection and sense of immersion between audience and performers.

The way in which the chorus would delicately interact and flirt with audience members on either side of the space, through a series of comical but well executed choreographic sequences was playful. It added to the “celebration of love” so central to the plot.

Sabrina Surace in the role of L’amour, simply dazzled from the moment she “entered” in grand fashion, her dedication to this role here only matched by the sass and confidence of which she bought in spades. The rest of the cast are equally as impressive; strong in both character and voice, delightful was the sensation when the chorus also broke into thunderous song, if anything though perhaps they may have chosen to have shown “less in the face”,  and instead draw upon their impressive physicality to show much of over exaggerated emotion.

After opening scenes that perhaps could be described as a little “bleak”; the performance quickly became more obscure; unfurling from surly greys into full blown technicolour. You suddenly yet happily became lost within a beautifully supposed world. Whether or not it plunged deep enough into insanity is something that’s hard to answer, for it could of quite easily have slipped that little bit more. Though, in showing such refrain it left a wanting sensation post performance; something that’s difficult to find in a city brimming with shows of one kind or another.

Of any criticisms that could be offered up, the lack of translations and reliance on emoji’s projected onto opposite walls, though an interesting choice; jarred, and perhaps showed a lack of respect towards the original work. However joyous was the sensation of losing yourself in this imagined world, better translations would have simply, but importantly, allowed deeper connections to be found with the characters. Back story is important.

The running time, at just under an hour is perfect, particularly when wanting to modernize and find new relevance with contemporary audiences, it held attention from start to finish. All in all, this is an incredible performance and a shining example of both contemporary opera and bespoke performance. You would be doing yourself a favour checking it out while you can, Pygmalion opens to the public on Tuesday the 5th of April and is on for a strictly limited season at Chapel Off Chapel.  For tickets and further information click here