Friday, 7 June 2019

Stephen Beville Pilgrimage Opus 111 Southernhay United Reformed Church Friday 31 May 2019

Stephen Beville
Pilgrimage Opus 111
Southernhay Churh
Friday 31 May
On a balmy spring evening Stephen Beville held an audience at Southernhay Church spellbound for two hours with a simple and brilliant demonstration of pianistic skill. Without preamble Stephen emerged from the vestry, walked casually to the grand piano and began to play.

Without a word he embarked on Franz Liszt's première 'Année de Pèlerinage' - Suisse (first Year of Pilgrimage - Switzerland). Between them Stephen and Franz Liszt took the listeners on a quite extraordinary pilgrimage through the Swiss countryside. Although there wasn't time to visit the Vallée d'Obermann, the journey took in the 'Chapelle de Guillaume Tell', and travelled 'au Lac de Wallenstadt', before ambling 'au bord d'une source'.

Stephen did not need to introduce the music, as his detailed notes on the programme gave all the relevant information, including Liszt's choice of poetry (mostly Byron) to reflect the mood of each piece. The most exciting of all was 'Orage' (Storm), which was a mighty tempest indeed. The subsequent 'Eclogue' was a peaceful and pastoral as the storm was wild. Even gentler was 'Le Mal du Pays' (Homesickness), evoking Liszt's yearning for his homeland. Finally ' Les Cloches de Genève' (The Bells of Geneva) introduced the theme of tolling bells which would feature in the second half of the concert.

While Stephen retired to the vestry once more, the audience members marveled at the spectacular nature of the recital they had just heard and wondered where Stephen would be taking them next.

Very soon Stephen returned and embarked, without comment, on a very different and much more recent composition: Arvo Pärt's 'Fur Alina' (1976), which is a deceptively simple piece demanding very precise performance. Stephen's technical and emotional control of each delicate melodic phrase perfectly represented Pärt's longing to see his friend Alina who was travelling abroad. As Stephen explained in his notes, this was the 'alternative side' of Liszt's 'Mal du Pays'.

The theme of bells was also extended in Pärt's use of 'tintinabuli', a style he invented himself specifically for this piece - and used again in 'Spiegel im Spiegel' for piano and violin, which Stephen performed two years ago with Jonathan Storer, on 26 May 2017.

The 'main course' of Friday's concert was Stephen's reprise of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 32, Opus 111, which can be heard on Stephen's album CD 'In Karlsruhe'. This powerful performance showed off Stephen's versatility and skill to the full. The opening 'Maestoso' was majestic and arresting, full of exciting and thrilling themes. The 'Arietta' is initially gentle and seductive. Stephen's incredible ability to draw out different moods from the piano held the listeners transfixed, waiting to hear where the music would take them next.

Almost imperceptibly, Stephen brought more and more life and passion to the original theme, which developed into a lively escapade with playful themes almost like twentieth century jazz. Stephen's performance of the Arietta was twenty minutes of sensational music, calming and invigorating in equal measure. From its opening tranquility to its equally gentle ending Stephen led the audience on one more exciting journey - a journey of pleasure and discovery.

After the concert audience members were generous in their praise of Stephen's playing, congratulating him and encouraging him to talk more about the wonderful music he had been playing. More importantly, when would Stephen be in concert again? Watch this space for details!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Classical Duo Elegance & Friends Concert for Three Violins St Nicholas Priory Friday 31 May 2019

Classical Duo Elegance - & Friends
Piano: Ekaterina Shetliffe
Violin: Oxana Militsina
Violin: Yulia Northridge
Violin: Sergei Emelianov
St Nicholas Priory Friday 31 May

(photography: Lee Shetliffe)

Sergei Emelianov
Concert Master Tatarstan State Orchestra
Four very special musical visitors were in Exeter last Friday. The familiar Classical Duo Elegance of Ekaterina Shetliffe and Yulia Northridge (piano & violin) were joined by two superb violin virtuosi. Making a special visit from Russia was the Concert Master of the State Symphony Orchestra of Tatarstan, Sergei Emelianov, together with a former fellow student at the Kazan State Conservatory, Oxana Militsina.

Violin: Oxana Militsina
Ekaterina opened the concert in the upper room of St Nicholas Priory with Antonio Vivaldi's rousing Concerto for Two Violins in D minor. Sergei leapt into action with the violin opening, echoed at every turn by Oxana. Having perfectly set the scene, the two violinists were then joined by Ekaterina on the piano. It was a very special treat to hear these two great violinists from Russia playing such rousing and beautiful music, and in such an atmospheric setting.

St Nicholas Priory
Mint Lane, Exeter
The Priory is arguably the oldest existing building in Exeter. Founded in 1087 as a Benedictine monastery, the building became a tudor town house for Tudor merchants following the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536. Now lovingly restored, with replica furnishings, it pre-dates by far the baroque music of Vivaldi. The sense of timelessness equally suited the rest of the programme which was all music composed in the late nineteenth century and the twentieth century.

Yulia and Oxana took turns to play music by modern composers including:

"Salut d'Amour" and "Chanson de Nuit" by Sir Edward Elgar
"Adagio and Allegro in Pugniani Style" by Fritz Kreizler
Musical Theme to "Schindler's List" by John Williams
"Montecci & Capuletti" from "Romeo & Juliet" by Sergei Prokofiev
Nocturne for "Olga Sergeevna" by Mikael Tariverdiev
Polka from "The Golden Age" by Alfred Schnittke
and finally a very popular and well-known show tune,
"Smoke Gets in your Eyes" from "Roberta" by Jerome Kern

The first half of the programme ended with two magnificent virtuoso pieces played by the wonderfully talented Yulia Northridge. First she played Pablo Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen" (Gypsy Airs). Initially slow and deliberate, the tune switches to a wild csárdás reminiscent of Ekaterina and Yulia's signature tune by Vittorio Monti. How cleverly Ekaterina and Yulia lulled the audience in a sense of restful calm before launching into that spectacular cadenza. What a wild Hungarian dance they led us on. The liveliest music you could wish to hear.

That was not all. Yulia also brought back a piece she has played before at concerts which, if anything, is even more exhilarating than the Gypsy Airs. This 1950's hit by Florian Zabach is called simply "Hot Canary". Once that bird took flight, there was not stopping Yulia. Even though she gave a brief demonstration of how it was played before starting, when she got into full flow the incredible intricacies of Zabach's music were almost impossible to follow. Singing, fluttering its wings and swooping around the fingerboard of the violin, that canary amazed everyone - even Yulia who seemed equally captivated by its antics.

Roger Hendy &  Tirke Linnemann
Musical Director and Principal 'Cello
Isca Ensemble
Thank you to all four musicians for a wonderful evening of music. Sergei Emelianov will be Concert Master at next week's Isca Ensemble concert at Sidmouth Parish Church, where Luka Okros will play the Mozart Piano Concerto in C. Roger Hendy will be Musical Director and he and the Isca Principal 'Cello Tirke Linnemann were at Friday's concert to hear Sergei in action. They were not disappointed!

Classical Duo Elegance
Piano: Ekaterina Shetliffe
Violin: Yulia Northridge
Ekaterina and Yulia will return to St Nicholas Priory on Saturday 22 June for a performance involving the pupils of Creative Llama Music School at 5.30pm.  They will also be at St Stephen's Church in Exeter High Street on Friday 29 June at 6pm to perform "Vocal and Insturmental Masterpieces" by Mozart and Rossini with operatic mezzo soprano Iryna Ilnytska.

Later in the year the Classical Duo Elegance will be at St Mary's Church Totnes for a coffee morning concert on Saturday 12 October - with the promising title of "Baroque Delights"! Finally this year they will be at Lupton House in Churston Ferrers to play "Instrumental Music from The Movies" at 6.30pm on Sunday 15 December. Ekaterina would also like to find a suitable venue in Exeter to give a second performance of that concert. Any suggestions?

Isca Ensemble
Luka Okros
Sidmouth Parish Church
Saturday 8 June 7.30pm
Musical Director: Roger Hendy
Guest Concertmeister:
Sergei Emelyanov, violin
(State Symphony Orchestra of Tatarstan)
Ludwig van Beethoven: 'Coriolan' Overture
W A Mozart: Piano Concerto 21 in C K467
(Piano: Luka Okros)
P I Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4
Tickets: Side Aisles £12 (student/U18 £6)
(Central Nave - Sold Out)
Paragon Books: 01395 514616
Online BookingTicketSource

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Polina Shifrina & Iryna Ilnytska House Concert Exwick Old Post Office Friday 24 May 2019

Piano: Polina Shifrina
Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska

The guests arrive at an intriguing venue
Exwick Old Post Office
Building on the success of their first two sell-out house concerts, Polina Shifrina and Iryna Ilnytska joined forces again on Friday 24 May for another hour of music for piano and mezzo soprano voice. This time the featured artist was the early twentieth century Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov.

Iryna opened the recital with her now famous signature piece, "Lilacs", the fifth of Rachmaninov's 12 Romances, Opus 21. As Iryna explained, he dedicated the music to a mysterious Mme Fekle Rousseau, who referred to herself at 'The White Lilac Lady' and sent fresh lilacs to all Sergei's performances. She hoped he would return to Russia, which sadly he did not.

Sergei Rachmaninov & Natalia Satina
Iryna also sang "The Dream", fifth of Rachmaninov's 6 Romances, Opus 38. As Iryna pointed out not at all simple to perform, but very restful for the listener. The dream was that he might one day return to Russia and the dear friends of his youth, in particular the three Skalon sisters Natalia, Lyudmila and Vera to whom he dedicated his dream - friends of Natalia Satina who married Sergei in May 1902.

With Polina's emotive accompaniment on the piano, Iryna's rich operatic voice was a dream in the intimate setting of Polina's living room - with its own built in stage. There was also an opportunity to enjoy Polina's solo piano playing, from Rachmaninov's 6 Musical Moments, Opus 16. A beautiful and pleasing moment indeed.

Alexander Pushkin
(portrait by Vasili Tropinin)
The poem "Morning" by Mariya Yanova was the second of Rachmaninov's 6 Songs, Opus 4. The opening section based on the four syllable theme "Люблю тебя!" (I love you!) was in a feminine mood representing dawn, while the later words were more masculine in tone, representing the day. An arresting and delightful contrast.

Polina had more solo piano music too, Prelude No 12 in G sharp minor, Opus 32. This sparkling composition featured the tinkling of the treble keys reminiscent of Ravel's "Jeux d'Eau" which Polina played at the first house concert. This delicate and thoughtful piece was a lively but restful interlude.

Iryna especially wanted to include Alexander Pushkin's "Do not Sing my Beauty" (Your Sad Songs of Georgia), dedicated to one of Mikhail Glinka's operatic students.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
With Polina's portentous introduction Iryna's song of yearning for a far off land reminded us of the deep sadness of Rachmaninov's own exile from his homeland. How effectively Iryna evokes the very deepest emotions in song!

Polina also included piano music by Rachmaninov's predecessor and inspiration,
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

"Dumka" (Little Thought) is one of many compositions by various composers in a folk style known as 'dumky'. Simple but affecting, the little tune was cleverly woven by Polina and a very intriguing little thought it was.

Iryna's most moving performance was a fragment from 'Nuits' by Alfred the Musset (1835). Translated in advance by Iryna, the song briefly, but powerfully exposes the devastating emotional turmoil of Alfred's nights of isolation and loneliness.

Alfred de Musset
(portrait by Faustin Besson)
To lighten the mood and introduce the music which will feature in the next house concert, Polina introduced a last song by Franz Schubert, which was later reset by Franz Liszt. Based on Sir Walter Scott's "Lady of the Lake", Ellen's Third Song, opens with the words of the Catholic prayer "Ave Maria". How very different from the music up to that point in the concert. The next (and sadly last) concert in this series will be dedicated to works by those two giants of the Romantic period - Schubert and Liszt!

Once again Polina and Iryna created a very special musical world for an hour. They provided a wealth of pleasure and emotional diversity for their devoted audience. These house concerts are very special, full of extraordinary music spectacularly performed. Many thanks to Iryna and Polina for all their work - and not forgetting Polina's husband Eros who provides food and his very special mojitos and piña coladas (alcoholic or non-alcholic) which make the concerts into a super party for everyone.

The Schubert and Liszt recital will be on Saturday 22 June - still at 6pm and still in Exwick Old Post Office. A musical treat not to be missed!

House Concerts at EX4 2AA
Exwick Post Office
Saturday 22 June 6pm
Piano: Polina Shifrina
Mezzo Soprano: Iryna Ilnytska
Tickets: £10
(includes buffet & drinks)
Booking: 07570 040173

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Pilgrimage Opus 111 Southernhay Church Friday 31 May 2019 Press Release from Stephen Beville


The climactic last trill on G in the high register of the piano; the culmination of the Arietta, Beethoven's last piano sonata, Op 111 and the peak of all music?

But what a traverse and climb before we reach that plateau(!). This piano recital is designed to reflect that mountainous trek, that journey. It is for this reason that I have chosen to precede Op 111 with Liszt's Années De Pelerinage (Years Of Pilgrimage), Book I -'Swiss', and Arvo Part's Fur Alina.

Another (less obvious) leitmotiv running through the programme is the depiction (and symbolism) of bells...It links Liszt's exquisite Nocturne; The Bells from Geneva to the radically pared down tintinnabuli composition technique (derived from overtones) of Arvo Pärt - of which Fur Alina (1976) was his first acknowledged, published example. Finally, the shimmering, celestial triple-trills over a repeated, intoned pedel note (before somewhat dissolving into the ether!) at the very heart of the Arietta may also be likened to a panoply of tolling bells.


Stephen Beville

Internationally acclaimed pianist Stephen Beville
will be performing the whole programme
on Friday 31st May, 7:30 pm
at the Southernhay United and Reformed Church,
Exeter EX1 1QA.

Tickets £12
available from Exeter Tourist Information Centre (01392 665885),
online at TicketSource
or at the door.

Quintessenz Music, Munich"Super Beethoven, radical and intelligent, Bravissimo!"

Classical Journey: "Great imagination and technical skill – a spectacular concert!" 

Frankfurt Neue Press: "One of the most talented young musicians to emerge from the UK"

For further information about Stephen Beville,
please visit his website at

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Clyst Valley Choral Society Joseph Haydn's "Creation" St Margaret's Topsham Saturday 4 May, Holy Trinity Exmouth Sunday 5 May 2019

Clyst Valley Choral Society
Joseph Haydn: "Creation"
Holy Trinity Exmouth
Sunday 5 May

Musical Director: Paul Stock
On a balmy spring evening, a small and enthusiastic gathering of musicians breathed life and joy into Joseph Haydn's epic biblical oratorio, "Creation". In a perfect closing performance for their fiftieth anniversary year and their Musical Director's twentieth, Paul Stock's Clyst Valley Choral Society shared Haydn's spectacular work with feeling and energy.

Clarinet: Phil Bonser
Sally Bull led the small orchestra with Chris Gould who, as always doubled as trumpeter. Rebecca Jackson continues her sterling work as second violin with Deborah Hamilton joining as violist. Sue Stock plays 'cello and is a major organising force for these events. The wind section comprises Clare Rackham playing flute, Julia Hill oboe and Phil Bonser clarinet. All contributed their deliciously delicate sound to the many moving arias in the piece.

Tympani/Bass Trombone:
Ben Lund-Conlon
For the rousing choruses there was the ever reliable Ben Lund-Conlon, not only providing percussion on the tympani but also playing magnificent bass trombone cadenzas as well. In the organ loft, the quiet and self-effacing Mark Perry supplied the subtle and reliable continuo - while his wife Nicky Perry sang in the choir.

Raphael: Jason Bomford
Uriel: Gordon Pike
Gabriel: Janet Macdonald
Three splendid soloists joined the choir to perform the recitatives and arias, as
well as sing in the choruses. Sadly the choir's regular alto soloist Myriam Prual was unable to take part, but did come with family to enjoy the music with everyone else. Soprano Janet Macdonald gave a brilliant performance alongside two equally impressive singers from Exeter Cathedral Choir. While Janet was the Archangel Gabriel, Tenor Gordon Pike was Uriel and Jason Bomford delivered the words of Raphael in a splendid bass voice.

"In the Beginning"
Jason Bomford
"God saw the Light"
Gordon Pike
From an initial intriguing representation of chaos by the orchestra followed the opening words of Hebrew Scripture delivered with clarity and arresting energy by Jason and Gordon. "The Earth was without form and void . . . and God said, Let There Be Light!" with Haydn's additional lyrics the familiar story unfolded in heroic style. By the Second Day, Janet had joined the fray with Haydn's ethereal vaults resounding to the praise of God.

"The Marvellous Work Behold"
Janet Macdonald
Green grass, fragrant herbs, lights to
lighten the day and the night, everything was praised in music, culminating at the end of Part 1 with a chorus and trio, "The heavens are telling the Glory of God."

"In Long Dimension Creeps
with Sinuous Trace - The Worm!"
Jason Bomford
In Part 2 Janet introduced the creatures of the oceans and the dry land, each grandly described by Jason. The eagle aloft, the merry lark, the tender dove, the immense leviathan, the tawny lion - and the flexible tiger. No less important, the nimble stag and meek and bleating flocks and swarming hosts of insects. Last but by no means least - The Worm!

"This World so Great"
Keith & Sandra Wadlan
For the final appearance of humankind, Keith and Sandra Wadlan left their places in the choir and stepped up to the pulpit to sing the parts of Adam and Eve, "O bounteous Lord . . . we praise thee now and evermore." With the creation of Heaven and Earth compete, it only remained for the choir (with the three Archangels) to round off the story with more rapturous praise of the Creator, "Jehovah's praise for ever shall endure. Amen. Amen."

Celebrating 50 years
of music and 30 years
of collaboration
Conductor: Paul Stock
The choir will return to more secular works next year, but for the last two evening concerts of their half-century celebration they exhilarated audiences with effusive sacred music of the most thrilling kind.

Chocolates for the regular soprano
Janet Macdonald
Paul Stock's production of Haydn's "Creation" with the Clyst Valley Choral Society and Orchestra was the most joyous and fabulous outpouring of delightful and triumphant musical beauty. May his twenty year tenure with the choir, like Haydn's Creation, endure - if not for ever, for a long time to come.

Delicious cake and refreshments
Alto: Myriam Prual
Soprano: Janet Macdonald
Special thanks also to Carolyn Keep, who as always was instrumental in the preparations and running the front of house, and to the church committee for providing such sumptuous refreshments during the interval - including a celebratory cake for Paul Stock the Musical Director.

Don't forget the Organist!
Mark Perry
In November the choir will reconvene for Eric Thiman's "Songs of Sailors and the Sea", Ralph Vaughan Williams' "Five Mystical Songs" and Charles Villier Stanford's "Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis" in C major.

In the spring of 2020, look out for Giacomo Puccini's "Messa di Gloria".

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Staircase Opera: Gian Carlo Menotti "The Consul" Roborough Studios Wednesday-Saturday 24-27 April 2019

Anna Gregory is Magda Sorel
Gian Carlo Menotti: "The Consul"

Roborough Studios
Wed-Sat 24-27 April

A family in peril
Mother: Carolyn Harries
John Sorel: Dominic Rousseau
Magda Sorel: Anna Gregory
This Wednesday the Staircase Opera Company start a new run at the Roborough Studios on Exeter University Streatham Campus. Following on from their very successful production of Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Medium" in November 2016 (read review), they are presenting Menotti's spectacular Pulitzer Prize winning 1950 work "The Consul".

Inspired by the plight of displaced persons after the Second World War, this opera follows the struggles of asylum seekers and their exhausting efforts to obtain help from the staff at a foreign consulate. This theme has remained relevant and moving right up to the present day.

The main protagonists are the Sorel family who desperately need assistance to escape tyranny in their own country. John and Magda live with John's mother and their baby son. John's involvement in the fight for freedom attracts the attention of the secret police, putting them all in danger.

Freedom Fighter
John Sorel:
Dominic Rousseau
The first act opens with singing heard through an open window - actually a recording made this week by soprano Christine Marsden in Dunsford. Dominic Rousseau is the freedom fighter John Sorel. Dominic is taking on his first full-length opera having trained for many years with local baritone legend Alex Poulton. Dominic trained as a GP in Exeter and now works full time as a hospital consultant, while also practicing and rehearsing his singing. His hard work has certainly paid off. As John Sorel he commands the stage and exudes the courage and fear of Sorel with every line.

Holding the Fort
Magda Sorel:
Anna Gregory
Carrying the torch for John in his enforced absence are his wife and mother. Carolyn Harries is The Mother who dotes on their grandchild but lives in constant distress at the family's oppressed circumstances. Anna Gregory is John's wife Magda Sorel, a devoted spouse overwhelmed by the impossible responsibilities she is forced to shoulder. Anna is another new addition to the Staircase personnel. She first worked with Carolyn Harries at Scottish Opera, and later at Opera Holland Park. Anna's performance is spectacular. She pours and urgent sense of passion and desperation into her response to all the trials that confront her.

The Turn of the Screw
Magda Sorel:
Anna Gregory
Secret Police Officer:
Alex Poulton
Magda's most threatening adversary is The Secret Police Officer played by Alex Poulton himself. Alex turns his trademark charm and wit to telling effect as the sly manipulative investigator, playing on Magda's hopes and fears ruthlessly. His splendid baritone voice seems incongruous for such an authoritarian thug, but soon takes on a new sense of menace as his every word carries threatening implications.

Devoted Grandmother
Carolyn Harries
Literally left holding the baby is Carolyn Harries as John's mother and grandmother to the Sorel baby. Carolyn's magnificent alto voice conveys love and concern for her whole family and Act One ends with a particularly touching trio with her and her son and daughter-in-law reflecting to each other their sense of urgency, foreboding and helplessness.

Bastion of Hope
Secretary to the Consul:
Rebecca Smith
Rebecca Smith, an established star of Staircase Opera, is the one person who can offer help to the Sorel family in their desperation. As The Secretary to the Consul she has the means to help refugees obtain the visas they need to escape oppression. Rebecca plays the part impeccably. Despite her obvious concern for the unfortunate situation of the applicants who come to her, she is unable to accelerate the bureaucratic process and provide the timely response they need.

In her attempt to provide the best assistance she can, and deal with everyone fairly, she maintains a facade of emotionless efficiency, insisting that everything is done correctly and according to the protocol dictated by the Consul. The tension between her comfortable existence as a civil servant, and the harrowing stories she has to hear all day, tells in her every action - and the expressive use of her powerful mezzo soprano voice. A stunning performance.

News from the Frontier
Assan the Glasscutter:
Thomas Gunning
Magda Sorel: Anna Gregory
Magda's tenuous contact with her fugitive husband is sustained by her occasional meetings with fellow conspirator Assan the Glasscutter. Assan was to be played by Alex Stevens, who sadly was not able to join the cast this time. His understudy is second year Exeter University drama student Thomas Gunning. Thomas developed a love of drama and singing while at school in South Wales. Now he specialises in stage production, but also retains a keen love of acting and singing. He ably portrays the mild-mannered and sympathetic intermediary between husband and wife. His concern for Magda and John is matched only by his fear of the omnipresent Secret Police Officer.

Seen in a Dream
John Sorel: Dominic Rousseau
Magda Sorel: Anna Gregory
Thomas Gunning, as well as playing Assan, is primarily concerned with the sets, sound effects and lighting. Switching deftly between singing and technical support, he also creates dream sequences in which Magda sees John but cannot communicate with him. The clever use of video projection by Thomas makes this and other effects possible in ways Menotti might not have anticipated.

The Consulate, which is the setting for Acts Two and Three, is also populated by many other hopefuls each with their own compelling story. Tim Hunt is Mr Kofner, a very organised and well-presented man who still cannot quite fulfill the exacting requirements of the Secretary.

All the Right Papers
Mr Kofner: Tim Hunt
Overcoming a Language Barrier
Mr Kofner: Tim Hunt
The Foreign Woman: Gemma Santiago
Secretary: Rebecca Smith
Despite his own difficulties he helps 'The Foreign Woman' (Gemma Santiago) who only speaks Italian. His translations demonstrate his own impressive command of the language.

Tim and Gemma have performed with Staircase before, and bring imagination and energy to their roles. Tim, well known for his appearances in Gilbert and Sullivan with the St David's Players, is an outstanding comic actor. In the Staircase revue "Myth, Magic and Superstition" he was brilliant as Papageno (see reveiw 7 November 2018).

An unreceptive response
Magician: Matt Wilding
Secretary: Rebecca Smith
There are also stellar performances by Matthew Wilding (The Magician, Nika Magadoff), Donna-Marie Broomfield (Anna Gomez) and Pip Gascoigne-Pees (Vera Boronel). Matthew has mastered the art of stage magic especially for this part and performs several impressive conjuring tricks (for the impassive Rebecca Smith) and also introduces an atmosphere of magic into the oppressive environment of the Consulate waiting room - which somehow enhances, rather than allays, the sense of sadness and frustration there.

All must be done correctly
Vera Boronel:
Pip Gascoigne-Pees
Secretary: Rebecca Smith
Donna and Pip each have their own story to tell, and sing beautifully in duet with Rebecca. Despite the continuing emphasis on the trials of Magda and John, they hold the audience's attention with the description of their own problems. A very special feature of this opera is the integration of the actors into the audience. Everyone has to physically move to a new location for Act II in the Consulate - and take their places alongside the characters in the opera. This creates a very intimate sense of involvement in the action.

Each story a compelling tragedy
Anna Gomez:
Donna-Marie Broomfield
There are also dream-like sequences when all the actors move around the space (often dancing very gracefully). All of this amazing action is created by Staircase Opera's Stage Director Martyn Harvey, whose attention to detail and creative imagination combine to bring Menotti's original vision spectacularly to life. The diction and language are bright and clear, every aria and recitative is easy to follow and comprehend, and skilfully set to music.

Dancing in a Dream
Stage Direction: Martyn Harvey
Musical Direction: Paul McClure
Stage Production & Video:
Thomas Gunning
The unseen hand behind this musical achievement is the wonderful Paul McClure who also provides some of the piano accompaniment - with the lion's share of the playing going to his assistant Roger Stephenson. The piano playing is very special in itself, and there are several beautiful interludes which could stand alone as masterful compositions performed with great skill and lightness of touch by the two pianists.

Struggle for Justice
Magda Sorel: Anna Gregory
Secretary: Rebecca Smith
Carolyn, Martyn and Paul have once again shown their mastery of small scale opera production, bringing together a marvellous cast of actors and bringing a very complex and challenging piece to life so brilliantly that Menotti's nightmare world is vividly real for two captivating hours.

There will be one performance per night for the next four nights, starting tonight Wednesday 24 April. Audiences convene at Roborough at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start. Audience members are advised to be in position in good time - as they are part of the action!

Staircase Opera
Roborough Studios
Streatham Campus
Exeter University
Wed-Sat 24-27 April 7.15pm
by Gian-Carlo Menotti
Director: Martin Harvey
Musical Director: Paul McClure
Piano Accompaniment: Paul McClure
                        & Roger Stephenson
John Sorel: Dominic Rousseau
Magda Sorel: Anna Gregory
The Mother: Carolyn Harries
Secret Police Agent: Alex Poulton
Assan: Alex Stevens Thomas Gunning
The Secretary: Rebecca Smith
Mr Kofner: Tim Hunt
The Foreign Woman: Gemma Santiago
The Magician: Matt Wilding
Anna Gomez: Donna-Marie Brromfield
Vera Boronel: Pip Gascoigne-Pees
Tickets: £16 (student £8)
Exeter Phoenix: 01392 667080
Online BookingExeter Phoenix