Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Masterclass, Jan 5, 2018 ****

Written by Terrence McNally
Produced by Andrew Kay & Associates PL with Kings Head Theatre London 
At Southbank Theatre, The Lawler until Jan 27, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Mon Jan 6, 2018, & in print on Tues Jan 9, 2018. KH
Amanda Muggleton in  MASTERCLASS  pic  Kate Ferguson

In Terrence McNally’s Masterclass, Amanda Muggleton fully and fiercely inhabits Maria Callas, the great opera diva, channelling all of Callas’s fiery temperament, arrogance and vulnerability.

The play is set during one of the vocal master classes that Callas taught during 1971-72 at the Julliard School in New York, 13 years after her exceptional voice suffered irrevocable damage that ended her career.

In Adam Spreadbury-Maher’s simply and tastefully directed production, Muggleton prowls the stage calling for her ‘next victim’, or perches on a stool like a bird of prey, criticising students, verbally annihilating enemies and telling tales of her past glories and ignoble failures.

As the students sing arias from Callas’s career, she relives her performances as ‘La Divinaand also her personal disasters, her failed marriage to the much older Giovanni Battista Meneghini, and her relationship with the bullying billionaire, Aristotle Onassis.

Other than a few cracked phrases that demonstrate Callas’s damaged voice, Muggleton does not actually sing, but ghostly recordings of Callas singing Verdi's Lady Macbeth and Bellini’s La Sonnambula trigger Callas’s memories, transporting her, and the audience, to the stage at La Scala.

Muggleton is a consummate performer who, with blazing eyes and statuesque bearing, captures the passion and fragility of Callas, portraying the raw, almost skinless emotional state of the diva who seems too sensitive for the real world.

Accompanying Muggleton on stage and on piano is the exceptional musician, Dobbs Franks, who plays Callas’s quiet, obliging pianist, Manny Weinstock.

As Callas revisits her life and her singing, her three ‘victims’ trail onto the stage to receive her wisdom and tactless criticism.

Kala Gare’s sweet soprano suits pert, naive Sophie, while Jessica Boyd brings vocal power and comic characterisation to soprano, Sharon, and Rocco Speranza plays tenor, Tony Candolino, with a large dose of youthful vanity.

Audiences are fortunate to hear arias sung by Gare and Graham after curtain call, but Muggleton is the diva in this production and her impassioned portrayal of the histrionic Callas is memorable.

By Kate Herbert

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