Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Oh Frabjous Day! Callooh! Callay! -Wonderful Pinchgut Opera

Last night I went to the final performance of Pinchgut Opera's production of an opera by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, David and Jonathan. Pinchgut has been performing operas in Sydney for the last seven years, and I have been to all their productions -Handel's  Semele, Purcell's The Fairy Queen, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, Rameau's Dardanus, Mozart's Idomeneo, and Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans.

Charpentier's music was not often heard in the centuries after his death, but there has been a rediscovery of his music in recent years. During his lifetime he was a rival of Lully, who somehow managed to have a musical monopoly in Paris which excluded the works of other composers. Charpentier was Maitre de Musique at the Jesuit church of St Louis, and later at Sainte-Chapelle, where he composed much superb sacred music. He has always been one of my favourite composers, ever since I came across him when my choir sang his Midnight Mass. His music is rich, warm, expressive and full of emotional intensity, with wonderful orchestration, and the vocal music is glorious.

David and Jonathan, which was produced in 1688, treats the love between David, the Jewish hero and slayer of Goliath and later king, and Jonathan, the son of Saul. Saul, of course, became very jealous of David's prowess, and sought his death.  In the ensuing wars, Jonathan was killed, and Saul, having lost his kingdom and his son, fell on his sword. It is all bloody stuff. There's a witch, and the ghost of the Prophet Samuel.

The original opera was written for the Jesuit College St Louis-le Grand. The opera was interspersed by a five act Latin play, which gave the action. The opera provides the psychological and emotional tableaux for the biblical events. So it is a complicated piece, and the programme was essential, as it provided the entire libretto, and all the information needed to follow the opera.

The whole performance was superb, with wonderful singing by all soloists, Anders J Dahlin as David, Sara Macliver as Jonathan,  Dean Robinson as Saul, and OperatunityOz winner David Parkin in the short but impressive role of Samuel, and Cantillation (the chorus). The orchestra was outstanding. Lovely Baroque instruments and a dark, warm sound. The sets were simple and effective. Pinchgut Opera uses the City Recital Hall at Angel Place for all its productions, and it is not designed for opera or theatre, but for concerts. So staging is difficult, but has always been done very well.

The audience went wild at the end of the performance. No one wanted it to end, or the impact to fade. I came home in a rosy glow, which is still with me today. We are accustomed to high standards, but this was not just high, it was outstanding and memorable. It is wonderful to be able to enjoy such excellence. So I am giving it a little rave.

Today it is back to mundane and everyday life. I have yet to start the Italian homework. It's about the Mafia - there's a depressing topic if ever there was one. My choir has finished for the year, and I should get cracking on preparations for Christmas. I have not even started my Christmas cards yet, or thought much about Christmas . But my mind is still on the joy of last night's performance.

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