W.A. Opera Company and Chorus
Supreme Court Gardens
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Over the years, Perth City Council’s operatic gift to the people has become a much anticipated annual event. Thousands turn out for the production including many children, for many of whom it would have been a very first encounter with live opera – and in a most agreeable environment, too. Invariably, it’s a happy night out with most patrons arriving carrying picnic hampers for dining under the stars.
As a rule, the works presented fall under the banner of ‘grand opera’ – Madame Butterfly and La Traviata, for instance.
This year, for the first time, it was Gilbert & Sullivan on offer. I wondered how attractive this very idiosyncratic type of operetta would prove to be in the open air. I need not have been concerned: I cannot readily recall a bigger turn out for such an event nor such warm applause.
Diction is absolutely crucial here; without the clearest enunciation of words, the entire enterprise can collapse in an embarrassing heap. As a backup – and not really needed because diction for the most part was exemplary – there were excellent English subtitles flashed on to screens on either side of the stage as well as to the sides of the main audience area.
I was particularly impressed by Andrew Foote. I cannot readily recall hearing this fine musician to better effect, producing, as he did, an unfailingly mellow stream of finely phrased tone. And Sarah-Janet Dougiamas was vocally in fine fettle as the vinegary Katisha, coming across as the ultimate scold, wagging her finger indignantly at whoever happened to be the focus of her grumpiness. Robert Hofmann, too, quite rightly earned warm applause for his amusing presentation of the famous Little List aria. It was one of the comic highlights of the evening, not least for its up-to-the-minute arrows aimed at Perth institutions which elicited delighted chuckles.
Amanda Barrett Hayes, as director, did much to ensure a production that was as agreeable on the eye as the ear. Her deployment of a large cast was consistently imaginative. Bouquets to the W.A. Opera Chorus for consistently disciplined singing. This was a highlight. As well, the W.A.Symphony Orchestra responded in the most disciplined way to David Wickham’s direction, resulting in constantly workable tempi and a most agreeable buoyancy of both momentum and mood. Bravo!