Thursday, 17 January 2013

Sleeping Beauty, Victorian Opera, Jan 17, 2013 ****

Music & Libretto by Richard Gill, Victorian Opera
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Jan 17 to 19, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Version of this review published in Herald Sun on line (Jan 18) then in print. KH

  L-R: Olivia Cranwell as Queen Clementine, James Payne as King Florestan and Dimity Shepard as Dargonelle

Recipe for children’s opera: take one fairy tale, several opera singers, ballet dancers and fairies, then mix with orchestra, singable tunes, rhymes, pantomime and audience participation.

Richard Gill’s Sleeping Beauty, with Derek Taylor’s direction, has all the ingredients for an enjoyable children’s musical, with the added element of exposing little ones to opera at their own level.

Before we embark on the fairy tale, narrators Darcy the Jester (Jonathan Bode) and Fairy Godmother Ticketty-Boo (Suzanne Johnston), introduce the show with singalongs, jokes and even bring some lucky children on stage to accompany the overture with tambourines.

The children love the tomfoolery of Bode and Johnston and their chorus of Jumping Jollies, four playful singer-dancers who help to tell the tale.

The story of the sleeping princess (Lotte Betts-Dean) and her heroic prince (Daniel Todd) is told through simple, rhyming dialogue and cheerful, eclectic music, songs and dance.

The children hear arias, duets, multi-part harmonies and choruses sung by professionals that not only entertain and engage, but also educate them about opera.

The evocative design (Julie Nelson) and lighting (Richard Vabre) conjure a magical world of castles, towers and forests and the vivid costumes are impressive, especially the pink and green, high-gelati colours of Ticketty-Boo’s gown.

It is a gift to hear Johnston’s rich, expressive voice that usually features in major operas, and the skilful cast ably supports her.

Betts-Dean has a bright, fine soprano and Todd’s tenor is powerful and clear, while Dimity Shepherd, another stalwart of Australia’s opera stage, is passionate and compelling as wicked fairy, Dragonelle.

Little ballet dancers will be delighted to see young ballerinas playing the fairy chorus that brings gifts to the baby princess.

Such exposure to opera and theatre provides children with an introduction to the art forms that will hopefully lead them to a whole new future of live entertainment.

By Kate Herbert

 Lotte Betts-Dean as Princess Aurora & Jollys (Jack Feehan, Mark Morabito, Laura O’Sullivan, Camille Wai)
 L-R: Suzanne Johnston as Ticketty-Boo, Lotte Betts-Dean as Princess Aurora and Daniel Todd as Prince Waldheim

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