Short comic operas well received

Elizabeth Bouman
Elizabeth Bouman
Dunedin's boutique opera group Little Box of Operas opened a three-night season at Hanover Hall last evening with two short comic operas, conducted from the piano by David Burchell and directed by Jenny Burchell.

Goldilocks a la Mozart, a comic opera by William Green (Auckland), received its world premiere and the composer, who was in the audience, was absolutely delighted with the Dunedin cast's performance.

Celebrated Mozart themes and arias were familiar to most of the audience, but texts portrayed a modern twist to the tale of Goldilocks. Traditional porridge, broken beds and chairs remained, but the "home invasion" by Goldilocks (Caroline Burchell) ended with her acceptance into the bear family, on her promise of daily porridge-making.

Strong performances came from experienced opera singers Ben France-Hudson (Papa Bear), Claire Barton (Mama Bear) and Sam Madden, their petulant computer-addicted Baby Bear, whose tantrums and demands had a certain familiarity. The staging worked well with three beds in the upper mezzanine, and infectious humour had the audience chuckling, albeit groaning over lines such as "I'll bear it in mind" and "If you'll just bear with me."

The Four-Note Opera (1972), by American composer Tom Johnson, has been translated into six languages and performed worldwide. There is no plot, but the cast of five (one for each voice type) farcically define the materials and elements of staging an opera, particularly standard moves, repetition of words and melodic line.

The highlighting of voice-type personalities and self-adoration of the singers gave rise to hilarious consequences. Performing were Beth Goulstone (soprano), Claire Barton (contralto) Sam Madden (tenor), Scott Bezett (baritone) and Nathanial Otley (bass). Pianoforte obligato with percussion (James Burchell) accompanied and as the title suggests, the melody line was limited to four notes.

It was whimsical and genuinely operatic and I found the performances hugely entertaining. The season continues until Sunday night. 

 - Elizabeth Bouman


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