Corruption, Consequences and Lies- three words that come to mind during the performance of ‘Saints and Sinners’ , a programme of one act operas combining the creative minds of Giovanni Carissimi, Jonathan Dove and Kevin O’Connell. The ‘Opera Briefs’ are a collaboration of the Royal Irish Academy of Music with The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Arts at Trinity College Dublin and if last Fridays performance is anything to go by, the students showcase is sure to be a great success. Each Opera, though written in different time periods, displays recurring themes and moral conundrums centred on Biblical stories, Comedy, selfishness and political corruption.
Outstanding characters feature in each Opera notably for their exquisite musical talent and clear portrayal of such themes. One such character is that of Jepthes’ innocent and virtuous Daughter in the first Opera, played by the wonderfully talented Sarah Shine, whose elegant and soft Soprano voice captivated the audiences’ attention right throughout with an emotional and poignant performance. While ‘Greed’ focused more on a Trio combination of singers rather than a solo, their interaction and blend together showed a level of professionalism and obvious rigorous rehearsing depicting, in a comedic manner, the behaviours of typical tourists. While the last opera, ‘Sensational!’ was at times slow to move and hard to keep focus on, Rebecca Rodgers cannot be faulted on her effortless vocal performance and portrayal of the cunning journalist, cleverly directing her facial expressions and actions to include the audience.
The RIAM Baroque Ensemble conducted by David Adams was a perfect choice of accompaniment to ‘Jepthe’, authentically portraying Carissimis 17th century oratorio style particularly with the harp and organ and never overpowered the soloists or chorus. The Chorus must not go without praise as their impeccable heavenly blend of voices and flawless interaction with the ensemble is a credit to their remarkable talents. The RIAM Opera Ensemble conducted by Andrew Synnott took on a different challenge of accompanying a more modern recitative style of singing in the last two Operas. The bartering scene in ‘Greed’, was most impressive as the fast paced trills on the violins created a sense of ‘foreignness’ and added to the anticipation of the outcome. Tham Horng Kent’s’ jazz piano skills in ‘Sensational!’ helped create the tension, as the love affair and corruptive actions of the Politician are revealed.
While the staging and sets were kept to a minimum, the simplicity of the surroundings enhanced the drama in all three Operas, and the quick, smooth change between each Opera effectively transported the audience from one place to the next. The unusual setup of the ensemble in a pit in the middle of the stage was certainly interesting but perhaps may have been difficult for the singers, as at times they may not have been able to see the conductor’s directions. Kevin Smith’s creative lighting design was a prominent feature of the programme, particularly in the death scene in ‘Jepthe’ as the Daughter descends dramatically into the white light. Overall the high quality and professional performance from singers, ensembles and the production crew, created an exciting Opera experience that is certainly worth seeing whether you are an avid Opera goer or simply someone looking for an enjoyable theatrical performance to attend.
Words by Elisabeth Sinnott
Elisabeth’s review was selected by the GoldenPlec.com Classical Team as outstanding amongst her class in UCD’s second year ‘Writing About Music’ module. The GoldenPlec Classical Team would also like to thank Wolfgang Marx from UCD for his involvement.