OPERA - OTHER COMPOSERS - LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES
dozen first-rate singers and a bouncy band. Add the most stunning
costumes for several seasons. Combine with a spikey score and a
Da-da-ist story-line until Opera Australia had every ingredient but one
for a knock-out account of Sergei Prokofiev’s 1919 Love for Three
The plot derives from
commedia dell’arte. A hypochondriac prince is cheered up by seeing a
witch, Elizabeth Whitehouse, fall over. She reacts by condemning him to
love three oranges, from the last of which he rescues his human love. In
case the action is not mad-cap enough, groups disrupt the performance by
demanding their favourite form of theatre, whether romance, tragedy,
comedy, lyricism or nonsense.
Love for Three Oranges
is full of a wit which demands intelligence from all concerned on stage.
Instead, the first half achieved its laughs from the Tom Stoppard
surtitles. Mirth never rippled across the footlights. Director Francesca
Zambello appears to be rhythm deaf. How else could she let the chorus
triss on the spot to the famous march? Equally, why were the comic
talents of Teddy Tahu Rhodes ignored? A choreographer would have created
a the kaleidoscope of Tania Noginova’s costumes to dazzle and delight.
The second act became
several degrees funnier because the numbers on stage fell to a handful.
Arend Baumann excelled as a Pantomime Dame, bringing a coyness to the
role of cook that in lesser hands collapses into Aunty-Jack style
hysterics. All the cast were helped by the craft of William Ferguson as
the jester Truffaldino.
Canadian tenor John
Mac Master as the prince has the only extended role which gets underway
by requiring him to switch from sook to spunk. This transformation he
achieved by contriving a laugh which was utterly convincing with its
latest Music Director, Richard Hickox, steered clear of the farcical to
elicit frantic fun from his players, giving the ensemble of principals
some of the help that the direction did not deliver.