Fringe Festival

Opera Undressed

Penny Shaw (soprano)/ Tommaso Pollio (keyboartd)

Casa Mondo Tent, Russell Square

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

 

Penny Shaw FRINGEWORLD Festival Opera Undressed 19 to 22 Feb 2015 Casa Mondo image by Jay AutyIt was a first­time experience for me: a striptease on the part of the accompanist for a program of well ­loved opera arias.

Initially, it was off with the jacket and bowtie. Then trousers were removed revealing bright green board shorts and hairy legs. There was more to come, though, with board shorts also removed to present very upmarket, multi­coloured underpants.

I hope that these extraordinary goings ­on do not trigger a craze for similar entertainments.

From a purely musical point of view, though, there was much that was thoroughly worthwhile in a performance that maintained focus, momentum and good humour on the part of soprano Penny Shaw despite having to contend with less­than­ideal performing conditions. And not even Tommaso Pollio’s burlesque­type antics could detract from commendably focussed vocal artistry.

Throughout, Shaw reached out to the audience with excellent diction and a delightful sense of humour. But I’d very much have liked to listen to this recital without maddening sonic intrusions –

doef­doef thumping (from some distant rock band?) and irritating machinery noise (could this have been from the air conditioners?) – and a busily fidgeting photographer nearby.

Penny Shaw has a voice that projects confidently and meaningfully – and it is complemented by Pollio’s profoundly musical presence at the keyboard.

There was also a jolly music quiz in which three brave concertgoers volunteered to take part as contestants, sparking a good deal of merriment from both participants and audience, the former offered Lindt chocolates in bright red wrappers.

I can’t recall such uncomfortable seats – bare planks! ­ since attending Pagel’s Circus in Cape Town when I was about 8 years old.

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