Warning: this is not a professional review lauding the technical aspects of the opera — rather an opinion piece from the viewpoint of an opera layman
Having already had my opera cherry popped after attending Pinchgut’s Giasone last year – I was thankfully partially versed in the etiquette which is part and parcel of the opera/classical scene. I had invited the husband along and took great pride in telling him all of the ‘rules’ that the discerning classical audience abides by. Used to screaming our lungs out and fist pumping the air at most live music performances we were ready for a more cultured experience.
There was a persuasive festive mood at The Chimney Sweep. Having a full chamber orchestra rather than a traditional baroque ensemble really added some punch to the whole performance, and conductor Erin Hyland delighted once again with his energetic leadership.
When I think of opera I imagine a dramatic, heart-wrenching tale of unrequited love filled with tragedy, death and murderous intent – epitomised by last year’s Giasone. But this tale of the chimney sweep turned social climbing playboy was actually refreshingly comedic. It felt like I was watching an 18th century version of Jersey Shore – especially in the opening scenes where Mrs & Miss Hawk go head to head for Volpino’s affection. And man that Amelia Farruga can belt out a tune. Not really being versed in the subtleties of the operatic singers craft I can only tell you what I saw and heard – and that lady came out guns blazing on opening night. Similarly the interminable performance of David Woloszko as Mr Bear by was a highlight for me.
With the piece adapted into English, I felt much more engaged with the story line and characters and the first half of the opera seemed to fly by (being Gen Y, anything that runs longer than 90 minutes better have some bells and whistles.) And again, I was surprised at the raunchy content of what is considered a more ‘mature’ performance art. There were a lot of older patrons in attendance and they were laughing just as much as I during some of the more risqué parts – and they all seemed to take the racy scene at the end of the first half in their stride, in fact I was probably more gobsmacked than them – I can’t believe Salieri could get away with this 200 years ago! How Pinchgut could marry class with an all-out 18th Century love fest is beyond me – but they managed to balance humour, theatrics and opera into perfect union.
The atmosphere in the intermission was very upbeat and positive, I really enjoyed mingling with the crowd and chatting to a young first time opera patron, who was there to see her friend in the Children’s Choir.
I was a little confused and somewhat exasperated in the second half when Volpino and his lady friend Lisel plotted to auction away the hapless Mrs & Miss Hawk – surely a more acceptable premise in 1781 than it is today, but none the less a cracking night of entertainment!
Interestingly, the dance music festival Pasha was just kicking off at the Ivy when the opera patrons left City Recital Hall – I felt a little sorry for these beautiful people queuing to get in, to think they just missed the best show in town, and it was right next door.