I went along to this opera not knowing exactly what to expect. It seems like there is a hugely diverse opera scene being promoted in Ireland at the moment and I’ve been to see quite a few, both old and new, over the last year or two. It is nice to see that there is such a vibrant scene and enthusiasm amongst both audience and spectator alike.
This opera, as laid out in the programme notes, synthesises the tragic Greek myth of King Midas with the modern black comedy of the global financial crisis. It tells the story of how the richest man confronts the world’s greatest economic disaster! However, there is an unexpectedly delightful twist in this story that I don’t think any member of the audience would be unhappy about. AntiMidas certainly gets his just deserts.
The opera opens with a light comedy sketch involving all four singers as anchor people for shark tv. These sketches are interspersed throughout the opera providing clever and witty headlines and story-telling devices using a tilted screen at the back to reinforce these headlines for the audience as they sing their parts. We keep catching the anchors in compromising positions each time these scenes come around. The vocal parts are in unison for the most part in these scenes which works as quite an effective transmission of the text.
The stage design was very impressive both visually and from a practical point of view within the space. It meant that the singers could move around simply from scene to scene with an almost labyrinth style runway of sorts weaving between the news room and the office space. There was a small ensemble of violin, cello, trombone, flute and percussion. The percussion acted as an interlude or thread of sound during the scene changes while also allowing for a break from the other instrumental sound. The music was largely textural in context with no discerning melodic content to speak of but worked instead to give emotional tension and energy to the action and to evoke certain moods within the story. The musicians certainly had their work cut out for them. They were superb.
Excellent performances by all the singers – Tyrone Landau (AntiMidas), Tamsin Dalley (Thermodike, wife of AntiMidas), Catherine May (Zoe, daughter of AntiMidas) and Owen Gilhooly (Pluto, God of Hades). Landau and May being the stronger vocally and acting-wise. The only nagging thing at me was the fact that the singers had to keep looking sideways to see the conductor which I found slightly distracting at times but I’m not sure there would be any way to remedy that in the given space.
In general there were clever techniques employed and very strong musical and theatrical devices used. I liked the fact that the percussionist started throwing coins at the kettle drums at some point! Nice attention to detail.
The story was told well. Lots of comedy to lighten the seriousness of the topic and it was pretty great to watch a banker covered in shit for a large part of the opera! It touched upon many of the topics and ramifications of the crash particularly from the point of view of PIGS!
A highly enjoyable evenings entertainment. Great theatre and great music = great opera.
Review by JR
Evangelia Rigaki – Composer
W. N. Herbert- Librettist
Samuel Beckett theatre 12-14 December 2013, 8.00pm