Director: Jane Anthony
Musical Director: John Longstaff
Music: Georges Bizet, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart & Otto Nicolai
Pianist: Ewan Gilford
Reviewer: S. E. Webster
The Public Reviews Rating:
In a bid to promote opera in the local Yorkshire area, the non-profit company Young Opera Venture are currently touring with a cast of fresh and exciting new voices. With the majority of the cast having either recently graduated or currently pursuing postgraduate studies in music, the company provides them with the opportunity of showcasing their talent to the general public.
Cue Opera Appetizers. A show that presents famous scenes and extracts from four different operas, including: The Magic Flute, Carmen, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Così fan tutte. For anyone who is familiar with these operas and enjoys revisiting certain famous scenes without wishing to sit through all three hours of each opera again, this performance will prove a light and entertaining evening. On the other hand, this taster session not only serves as a great introduction for new talent onto the stage, but likewise for those theatre-goers who might be as yet unfamiliar with operatic performances. It is thus a mutual process, where everyone in the room, both performers and theatre-goers enjoy the same variety and novelty.
The opera is furthermore made even more accessible to the public, since it is sung in English, dispelling any terrors or anxieties audience members might otherwise feel at not being able to understand the plot action.
All of the performers are not only great singers, but are equally skilled in acting. Opera can seem dull if performers merely stand and sing; but there is nothing dull about this troupe. They seem to relish the variety of music, from Mozart to Bizet and really involve themselves in the characters they are portraying and the words that they are singing. Most importantly however, they do not over-act, something which many an opera singer is often guilty of. Whilst all of the cast are solid in their performances, particular credit should go to Philip Wilcox and Heather Lowe, who really are exceptional and highly versatile.
Accompanying them throughout on the Yamaha baby grand piano is Ewan Gilford. Displaying great rhythm, finger-work and dynamics, and supporting the singers without over-powering them, Gilford is clearly a highly-accomplished accompanist and a joy to listen to.
Credit should also go to the management team responsible for stage setting and wardrobe, both of which are minimalist yet highly effective. Indeed, the Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre is an ideal location for this sort of performance as it is such a flexible space and furthermore appropriate given its prominent location in the heart of the Leeds cultural quarter and opposite to Leeds College of Music, where some cast members have in fact studied.
Show highlights include the Carmen scene, which sees audience participation as they join the cast on stage, to create a convincing and lively atmosphere, as well as the extract from The Merry Wives of Windsor sees Mrs Ford and Mrs Page, played respectively by Sarah Ogden and Heather Lowe, comically tearing their love letters to pieces and mock-fencing with a newspaper and silver spoon.
In short, Young Opera Venture is an ambitious company, determined to succeed and, judging on last night’s performance, will continue to do so convincingly.
Tags: Catrin Woodruff, Charlie Brown, Christopher McKeon, Emma Stannard, Ewan Gilford, Heather Lowe, Jane Anthony, John Longstaff, Leeds, Louis Hurst, Opera, Opera Appetizers, Philip Wilcox, Sarah Ogden, Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre, Thomas Morss, Wendy Carr