Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Light and Darkness

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

Light and Darkness

Article excerpt

Opera Australia brings its resources to bear on Night Music

One of the advantages of having opera companies produce Sondheim musicals is the abundance of rich, operatically trained voices. That was nowhere more brilliantly realized than at the end of the Act I ensemble "A Weekend in the Country" in Opera Australia's production of A Little Night Music at the Sydney Opera House (June 28-July 15, 2010). Opera Australia is one of the few companies in the country with the resources and scope to mount musicals by Sondheim, especially at a time when commercial producers appear to be more interested in high-profit productions of shows such as Wicked, Mary Poppins and multiple productions of Cats.

In 2007 Opera Australia staged a fine production of Sweeney Todd that toured a number of cities. It starred Peter Coleman-Wright and Judi Connelli, perhaps Australia's most formidable interpreter of Sondheim's work, comparable to Barbara Cook. Speculated productions include Passion and Gypsy, both having ideal roles for Connelli.

Director Stuart Maunder and his team delivered an idyllic production. The sets, lighting, costumes and direction combined to depict the external world of the characters as elegant, refined and materially abundant, contrasting with their internal worlds as emotionally trapped, disappointed, mismatched and afflicted with vanity, jealousy and infidelity - to name but a few of the human frailties on display.

Sigrid Thornton, better known in Australia as a popular stage and screen actress, brought to the role of Desirée a poignant mix of playfulness and vulnerability. Anthony Warlow, who has recorded a number of Sondheim songs, gave a strong and keenly observed performance as Fredrik. Nancy Hayes was assured and commanding as the worldly courtesan Madame Armfeldt. Her "Liaisons" was dreamlike, memorable and transporting.

Ben Lewis excelled in a powerful vocal and comic characterization as the pompous Count Carl-Magnus. Matthew Robinson as the tormented Henrik portrayed the anguish of a young man suspended between desire and religious guilt. Kate Maree Hoolihan was the sensual and flirtatious Petra, and her presentation of "The Miller's Son" was one of the highlights of the evening.

Katrina Retallick (Charlotte) and Lucy Maunder (Anne) combined to good effect in "Every Day a Little Death. …

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