Review: black, deep and meaningful

OPERA 
“Black Water”
Music and libretto by Jeremy Beck, presented by Co-Opera, Wesley Music Centre.
Reviewed by Helen Musa 

WESLEY Music Centre in Forrest is proving a powerhouse of classical music. With packed-out lunchtime concerts and back-to-back recitals, it’s like an around-year music festival.

A quietly sensational example was seen on March 10, when Co-Opera brought in a performance of American cellist-composer Jeremy Beck’s mono-drama “Black Water.”

Based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, it parallels the death in 1969 of Mary Jo Kopechne who, driven home, by Senator Ted Kennedy, drowned trapped in a car, while the senator escaped.

Preceded by Beck’s evocative 13-minute Sonata No. 3 (“Moon”) performed by cellist Zoe Wallace and pianist Julie Sargeant, the 40-minute “Black Water” proved a brilliant vehicle for Canberra soprano , pictured.

With sensitive accompaniment by Sargeant, Fitz Gibbon universalised the role by using an Australian accent to play out the last moments of the young girl in flashbacks and visions – flirting with “the senator”, talking to friends, reflecting on her family and consumed by the black waters rising in the car. The singing part is interspersed seamlessly with spoken segments that set the scene.

Beck’s music is accessible and melodic as it moves from the light-hearted syncopations of a party to the grim sense of water rising. In the unbearable conclusion, the girl imagines hearing the sounds of rescue – an appalling intersection of music, opera and real-life.

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