REVIEW: The Mansfield Trilogy

Opera Otago presents The Mansfield Trilogy
Sunday, September 11 - Mayfair Theatre

Opera Otago returned to the stage at the weekend with an ambitious project in The Mansfield Trilogy, three short operas created by three separate teams, which came together into a satisfying whole.

With music composed by Dorothy Buchanan and libretto by Jeremy Commons, The Mansfield Trilogy adapts three Katherine Mansfield stories for the stage —  The Woman at the Store, directed by Lisa Warrington with musical director Mark Wigglesworth, Miss Brill, directed by Clare Adams with musical 
director Sandra Crawshaw, and The Daughters of the Late Colonel, directed by Kim Morgan with musical director David Burchell.

Each performance was skilfully done, evoking the tone of the stories, from dark and poignant, to oddly comic.
In The Woman at the Store, soprano Lillian Gibbs sang the role of The Woman — a stern, unwelcoming presence, with soprano Calla Knudson inhabiting the role of her strange young daughter.

Benjamin Madden (tenor) and Roger Wilson (bass) played a pair of drovers, arriving at the store looking for grub and alarmed to find more than they bargained for.

Accompanied by Wigglesworth on piano, the singers gave strong performances of the angular, unsettling music, which helped to evoke the gothic horror of this disturbing tale.

The tone was lighter, yet poignant, in Miss Brill, with soprano Olivia Pike giving a lovely performance as as a lonely woman out people-watching in the park.

Director Clare Adams made good use of a screened backdrop, showcasing strolling people and playing children, with nice comic touches, behind the main scene.

Kieran Kelly (baritone) and Erin Connelly-Whyte (mezzo soprano) were amusing as a fussing middle-aged couple, on the adjacent park bench, with Blaise and Sarah Barham gently funny in the non-singing role of an elderly couple.

Scott Bezett (baritone) and Jemma Chester (soprano) were strong as a young couple taking a break from their courting to pour scorn on the hapless Miss Brill.

The singers were superbly accompanied by young cellist Jack Moyer and Crawshaw on piano.

In the final piece of the trilogy, The Daughters of the Late Colonel were played with nice comic timing and vocal skill by sopranos Erica Paterson and Emma McClean, as they gradually realise their new freedom.

In sterling support were Sarah Hubbard (soprano) as surly maid Kate, and Federico Freschi (baritone) as pompous priest The Rev Mr Farolles.

The singers were accompanied by a vibrant, jaunty score, played on piano by Burchell.

Alongside strong performances, the singers in all three short operas were beautifully, and sometimes shabbily, dressed in period style by wardrobe designer Charmian Smith.

The production team also included production/stage manager Linda Brewster, props manager Christine Wilson, lighting designer Chelsea Guthrie, with makeup and hair by Christal Allpress.

With it’s fascinating stories and skilful performances, Opera Otago’s production of The Mansfield Trilogy was a well thought-out and entertaining opera experience.

Performers rehearse for one-act opera Miss Brill, based on a Katherine Mansfield story, presented...
Performers rehearse for one-act opera Miss Brill, based on a Katherine Mansfield story, presented as part of Opera Otago’s Mansfield Trilogy at the Mayfair Theatre. PHOTO: SUPPLIED