When ‘Love’ can’t find its balance

OPERA
“Elixir of Love”
Canberra Opera Workshop.
ANU Arts Centre, season closed.
Reviewed by Ian McLean

THE standard of musical theatre in Canberra is excellent as highlighted by outstanding 2011 productions such as “Avenue Q” and “Blood Brothers”.

Sadly, this initial offering from the Canberra Opera Workshop fell short of those standards.

A wooden chorus, soldiers with an inability to march in step or perform even basic movements in unison, poor balance between singers and orchestra and virtually no understanding of characterisation just doesn’t cut it.

Cate Clelland is talented and experienced, but this production lacked even basic directorial guidance, while many of the cast often seemed to have little notion that they were required to actually act and sing in time with the orchestra.

On the positive side, the orchestra was excellent with fine clarity of sound and style interpretation.

Tenor David Smith as Nemorino shone. He sang with passion, conviction and a genuine understanding of his role. He was ably supported by Christopher McNee, who displayed a deft comedic edge as the quack doctor, Dulcamara.

David Reedy should be admired for his determination to bring locally produced opera to the stage, but it needs to be good. If opera is to succeed, David would be well advised to extend his casting net so he might draw upon and utilise the experienced talent pool which exists within the musical theatre fraternity.

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3 Responses to “When ‘Love’ can’t find its balance”

  1. December 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    Wow, what an unbalanced review. I see Ian is happy to forget that this level of a production was a first for some cast members, and that he maybe shouldn’t expect a commercial level of performace from what is essentially a community opera group.

    He obviously has no regard for what effect his comments may have on the self esteem of individual cast members as a result of his callous comments. The few positive thing he has to say in the whole review seem to directly contradict the other very negative statements and demonstrate that Ian is more interested in attracting controversy and wielding criticism for the sake of itself rather than actually writing a fair review of the production.

    Those I have spoken with who did see the performace have quite a different opinion of the show to the unwarranted criticism Ian deals out.

  2. December 21, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    From what I have heard it was an accurate review. A critic’s job is to call it as they see it and give their honest opinion. Nowhere in the review does it say that the singers couldn’t sing or that they lacked talent. The criticism is directed more at the staging and direction than the singing talents of those involved. It is criticism that the company would do well to take on board (like any company should) and use it as constructive criticism for their next production, and the one after that. I have no doubt that Canberra Opera workshop will continue to evolve and improve as time goes on. Everyone has to start somewhere!

    And, as an aside, most of the musical theatre companies (all amateur) in Canberra manage to produce professional level shows – Canberra Opera Workshop will too, in time.

    • December 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

      The issue I take here, as I have confirmed through other sources, is that Ian is NOT an opera reviewer, this is far from his field of expertise, to quote one of my sources “Ian is not a theatre or Opera expert”.

      His background is the Canberra Symphony orchestra which is =/= Opera. The people I contacted also expressed surprise that Ian would publish such a damming review (yes they read the review here) considering he is apparently known for (usually) being quite supportive of community events like this.

      Which brings to question why he would make such comments like:

      “A wooden chorus, soldiers with an inability to march in step or perform even basic movements in unison, poor balance between singers and orchestra and virtually no understanding of characterisation just doesn’t cut it.”

      “while many of the cast often seemed to have little notion that they were required to actually act and sing in time with the orchestra.”

      Apparently his expertise is not even fit to make such judgements, so why does Ian feel it is ok to savage the efforts of this production while essentially accusing them of having less experience than a high school amateur production.

      If you can’t see that the criticism by Ian in this case is quite unwarranted then you need to take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. The one thing I can tell you is Ian’s review has quite negatively impacted on the individual performers from this production and has left some of them quite depressed about it as a result – if that’s the outcome Ian was aiming for then well done, he has managed to make a bunch of people feel like crap for trying to express their appreciation of Opera. Oh well at least unfounded criticism like this sells advertising in the paper right?

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