Janet Macdonald's 'Opera Glass'are back in action in Exeter and Topsham for two charity concerts. Their first class performance will not only entertain, but also raise awareness and much needed financial support for the efforts of the Disasters Emergency Committee in the Philippines following the devastating arrival of Typhoon Haiyan.
Today at St Stephen's Church in Exeter High Street today, for the modest entrance price of five pounds, passers-by could enjoy Georges Bizet's glorious Opera 'Carmen' - condensed.
The most popular arias were linked by Peter Macdonald's faultless story-telling. In just 45 minutes, the audience had enjoyed a brief but comprehensive account of the adventures of Carmen, Don José and all, in and around the tobacco factory in Seville.
& Julian Rippon
Don José & Zuniga
The men eye up
The first two characters Peter introduces are Don José himself and Zuniga, an army lieutenant. These two are played by Edward Woodhouse and Julian Rippon, who make a dashing duo decked out in dress shirts and Belcher neckerchiefs. As they comment on the people passing by, their thoughts turn to the cigarette-girls who will come out of the factory as soon as the bell sounds.
The girls emerge - Micaëla, Mércèdes & Carmen played by Janet Macdonald, Rebecca Smith and Alison Kettlewell. In compliance with new anti-smoking laws their cigarettes are clearly fake, but very convincing.
& Edward Woodhouse
Micaëla & Don José
They give as good as they get in a musical dialogue which follows a pattern familiar the world over. Finally Carmen responds to the demands to know which man she chooses with the famous aria, "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle".
José receives an unwelcome rose from Carmen, but then receives something which interests him much more - a letter from his mother, delivered by Micaëla Cue a beautiful duet for Janet Macdonald and Edward Woodhouse.
Janet, Rebecca and Alison reappear for the emotionally charged 'Card Trio' where Frasquita (Janet Macdonald) and Mércèdes deal a pack of cards to divine their future love-life - "l'amour". Carmen joins them and draws her cards, only to discover that they predict "la mort" - death!
The Opera Glass rendition spares us the grim realisation of this forecast, but does introduce Carmen's effective nemesis, Escamillo the bull-fighter (Julian Rippon). In a touching duet, they express their new-found love for each other. (We try not to think about the consequences which will come later.)
This potted version of Meilhac and Halevy's tragic story ends, atypically, on a high note, with Escamillo triumphantly singing the 'Toreador Song'. This archetype of macho bombast is the perfect vehicle for Julian Rippon's explosive bass voice. The sheer power of his vocalisation is matched by the expressiveness of his delivery. As each verse ends the other singers reply in unison, with equal energy and emotion.
This little escapade is perfect introduction to opera for anyone unfamiliar with the music - and a delightful summary for those who know it well. The musicality and expressiveness of the singers is further enhanced by the little details of props and costumes which bring this 'reduced' opera to life.
Behind it all, as always, is the piano accompanist. In this case there were two pianists. Dorothy Raven shared the work with Cathedral Organ Scholar Michael Graham.
There is another chance to see this gem of opera later this week. Opera Glass will be at St Margaret's Church on Saturday evening for a repeat performance. Not only will there be a chance to relive the excitement of Bizet's "Carmen" but, with the extra time allowed by an evening performance, the singers will also be able to rework another opera classic.
|14 charities collaborate|
in the work of the D.E.C.
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All proceeds from ticket sales will go towards the work of the Disasters Emergency Committee collaboration of relief work charities in the devastated islands of the Philippines.
Any further donations would also be welcome of course!
|A second chance to hear 'Carmen'|
St Margaret's Church Topsham
Saturday 16 November 7.30pm
Georges Bizet: "Carmen"
W A Mozart: "Cosi fan Tutte"
Piano: Dorothy Raven & Michael Graham
Soprano: Janet Macdonald
Mezzo Soprano: Rebecca Smith
Tenor: Edward Woodhouse
Bass: Julian Rippon
Carmen: Alison Kettlewell
Tickets: £11 (advance £9)
from Topsham Bookshop
or telephone 01392 271858
Opera Glass Website
All proceeds from this concert will be donated to the
Disasters Emergency Committee Philippines Typhoon Appeal
P.S. There is also a chance to hear today's pianist, Michael Graham, singing tenor in the Exodus Choir on Friday evening at St David's Church in Exeter. Michael is the founder of the choir and will be sharing the musical directing duties with baritone Matt Cann.
St David's Church Exeter
Friday 15 November 7.30pm
CHORAL MUSIC OLD & NEW
Frank Martin: "Mass for Double Choir"
Michael Tippett: 5 spirituals from
"A Child of our Time"
Michael Graham & Matt Cann
Tickets: £10 (advance £8 student £6)
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