Magazine article Musical Opinion

Psappha's Marrying the Hangman

Magazine article Musical Opinion

Psappha's Marrying the Hangman

Article excerpt

In the final performance of their three-work Music Theatre Series at the Royal Northern College of Music on 11 November the Psappha ensemble staged Ronald Caltabiano's short opera Marrying the Hangman, written for them earlier in the year.

However, what promised to be an intriguing work with a plot that almost invited an operatic setting, lost much of its impact by a misjudgement in the stage management.

Prominent musicians are often a feature of Psappha performances and have enhanced many productions, but in this performance, with only one singer pitched in the middle of half a dozen enthusiastic instrumentalists, the inevitable result was that most of the words were lost in the ensemble sound so that only snatches of the narrative escaped during the quiet sections.

The basic story is that inl8th-Century Quebec the only way for someone to escape the death sentence was for a man to become a hangman and for a woman to marry a hangman. The woman in the story entices a man in the next cell to take the job and to marry her. He does this but proceeds to make her life such a misery that she would have had it easier if she had been executed in the first place.

Ruth Peel, acting and singing a dual role of 20th-Century Narrator and the Prisonerprojected both with conviction and a sumptuous, multi-textured voice which, had she and her set of three mirrored doors been positioned just a couple of yards in front of the players, would undoubtedly have captured the interest of the audience. …

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