Tag Archives: Ellen Kent

Sing Like An Egyptian

AIDA

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 21st November, 2016

 

Producer and director Ellen Kent is renowned for the lavish spectacle of her productions, yet this new staging of Verdi’s grandest opera seems somewhat scaled down.  A versatile, almost Romanesque set serves as the backdrop for each scene, and from the overture, the presence of stone walls is prominent, foreshadowing the tragic fate of the lovers.  (Spoiler: they get walled into a tomb, buried alive!)

As the prisoner/slave Aida, Olga Perrier sparkles.  Many of this production’s highlights are her solo arias, just Perrier in a spotlight, emoting her head off.  Similarly, Liza Kadelnik shines as the scheming Princess Amneris, suitably evil and cruel, although in her scenes with Perrier, the acting seems more mannered and more like melodramatic, silent-movie posturing.  In fact, the whole production style seems like a throwback – the show feels more like a reconstruction than a new staging.

There is strong, authoritative singing from baritones Vadym Chernihovskyi as High Priest Ramfis, and Oleksandr Forkushak as the Egyptian King.  Iurie Gisca makes a powerful impression as Amonasro, Aida’s cross and vengeful dad, but for me,  the standout performance comes from handsome teno Giorgi Meladze as the heroic Radames.  Meladze’s singing is robust and stirring – and he has a nice pair of legs!

The cast is augmented by extras from Theatre Workshop Birmingham and elsewhere, and while the choral singing is rather good, the acting leaves something to be desired.  Some of them look fed up or at a loss.  Standard bearers trudge across the stage as if they’re on their way to the job centre rather than taking part in a triumphal parade.  I applaud the involvement of local groups and appreciate the pressures but there is a sense that this bunch are under-rehearsed.

That being said, this is still an evening of superb singing.  The leads are all magnificent and Verdi’s score, under the baton of Vasyl Vasylenko, is unassailable, rousing and glorious.

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Fascinating Aida: Liza Kadelnik and Olga Perrier

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Poor but happy (and then sad and then dead)

LA BOHEME

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Monday 11th November, 2013

Force of nature Ellen Kent brings her production of Puccini’s romantic love story to Wolverhampton (and around the country) in this lavish version that contains a cast of superb singers, hand-picked from all over Europe.

As poet Rodolfo, Sorin Lupu delights with his tenor as clear as a brass bell.  He is more than matched by a delicately beautiful Mimi – Elena Dee is remarkable.  Of course it’s a paradox of the role that the frail young thing dying of consumption is able to belt out with such power, but that’s opera for you.

Rodolfo’s buddies are a fine ensemble.  Their comic playing in the opening act (in which my Italian was stretched beyond its limit due to a glitch with the surtitles) is actually amusing.  This lot are poor but by God they are also happy.

The second act with its aimlessly milling crowd is a bit twee, as the chorus nod and smile to each other and do little else.  More could be made of Parpignol the toymaker’s brief appearance.  He is included to represent something beyond the picturesque.  Director Ellen Kent needs to decide what that is.  That said, the main players continue to be superb, with the addition of Ecaterina Danu’s Musetta, pretty in pink and having all the best tunes.  There is love, life, death, and even snow.  Although you might know what’s coming (you don’t need to be psychic to guess) it’s a moving finale, dramatically presented by a strong cast.

Above all, Puccini’s score is the star and here it is very well served by the singers and conductor Nicolae Dohotaru.   Delightful on the ear and pleasant on the eye, this Boheme reminds us there is humanity in even the lowliest, most impoverished people – something that certain sectors of our society need to realise.

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