Posts Tagged ‘Stiofan O’Doherty’

We’re used to rarities at the Finborough, but it may have trumped itself with this one. First performed 100 years ago (next week) at the first Glastonbury festival, it came to London eight years later and ran for 376 performances over a two-year period, but is hasn’t been seen here since 1953! It is most often described as an opera, or more precisely a fairy opera, and is sometimes compared with Mozart’s The Magic Flute or Dvorak’s Rusalka, with Wagnarian pretensions! I’d call it music-theatre.

Rooted in Celtic mythology, it’s a somewhat obtuse but simple tale of Dalua, a dark ‘faery fool’, who match-makes immortal Etain with mortal King Eochaidh in the woods (obviously). They live happily for a year until Midir, Etain’s immortal lover, arrives and ruins the party. It isn’t as clear in performance as it sounds and you can see why a synopsis was inserted into the programme after printing. It seems to have lost 30 minutes since its running time was put on the web site and in the programme. If this means it has been cut, I’m not sure whether that has had an effect on the clarity of the story. In truth, the tale isn’t particularly captivating – in fact, its a bit daft and a bit dull.

Rutland Broughton’s music is talked about affectionately more than you’d expect of a lost opera, but I didn’t think it was that good. Perhaps the passing of 100 years have not been kind to this type of story or this style of music. It seemed much of a muchness to me. That said, given the space and resource restrictions, director Benji Sperring has done a great job and given us an opportunity to decide for ourselves. Inga Rutter-Davis’ quartet does full justice to the music and, given few of the singers are opera trained, it’s well sung, particularly by Stiofan O’Doherty as Dalua and Thomas Sutcliffe as Midir.

I can’t see major opera companies queuing up to revive it, so a gold star to the Finborough (again) for its enterprise in doing so.

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It’s beginning to look like the Union Theatre’s all-male Gilbert & Sullivan’s are going to become as permanent a feature as Propeller’s all-male Shakespeare’s. This one is the fourth and the best!

The material itself is even more suited to the concept than it’s predecessors The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe. A satire on 19th century aestheticism featuring the rivalry between Grosvenor and Bunthorne for the heart of milkmaid Patience, whilst  a bunch of infatuated Lady’s and maiden’s swoon, pout and sigh, ignoring the attentions of a bunch of dragoons seeking to court and marry them!

Stiofan O’Doherty and Dominic Brewer are perfect as the vain effete aesthetes wrapped up in a world of poetry and beauty. Edward Charles Bernstone is a delight as (s)he moves back and forth between her two suitors. The dragoons are cartoon soldiers, clumsy & naive but lovable, in their tweed jackets, bowler hats, black boots and big belts. The Lady’s Jane, Angela, Saphir and Ella are all brilliantly played by Sean Quigley, James Lacey, Mark Gillon and Matthew Marwick, each a different personality, and the maidens (some doubling up as dragoons) glide along the stage in flower print frocks and cardies, brilliantly choreographed by Drew McOnie.

The musical standards are extraordinary (how do you find that many men who can sing that high?!) and the performances beyond charming. Kingsley Hall’s design is inspired. Even MD Richard Bates, who plays the whole score heroically on a solo piano, dons a frock! I smiled from beginning to end of this faultless production by Sasha Regan – and I’m not even a G&S fan! 

If you like musical theatre and you don’t like this, you’ll need therapy. GO!

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