Saturday, 5 November 2016

marva and iolanta

In between Wonderful Town and Side Show, I went to the opera: on Wednesday 2nd November Bethan and I went to the Guildhall School Theatre to see an opera double bill, Stravinsky's Marva and Tchaikovsky's Iolanta, which we both enjoyed.

Granny having offered to childmind (aka go shopping and eat out), we looked into what we might go to see. There really wasn't much on in the theatre, and nothing we really fancied, but there were several music possibilities, and we went for this one; we don't often go to opera (G&S excepted - but G&S spoils you for 'proper' opera, setting a standard of music, lyrics and book that 'proper' opera never matches), and we were pretty confident we'd get a good production from Guildhall students, and it was £25 each.

The Stravinsky was just a half-hour long, a comedy sketch really. A bit like one-act plays, I'm not sure what context one-act operas would be programmed in these days. We thought it was fine, but we were happy with it at thirty minutes; it was what an ill-informed person like myself might imagine opera to be like, a cast of four people singing to, at and with each other in a mannered way, with singing instead of dialogue. The orchestra sometimes seemed a little loud relative to the singers, but we were sitting in the front row (only front row seats left when I booked).

There was a twenty-minute interval, then the Tchaikovsky, which was taken in one ninety-minute run, but it didn't feel long. We were both I think pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed it; the music was lovely, and the singing was good; it was a bigger cast, with a chorus too. The performances in general were good (nothing to the untrained ear that made you think of it being a student/non-professional production), and Elizabeth Skinner as Iolanta was particularly good, I thought: as I said in a Tweet, her voice 'made me think I could learn to love opera' - it was lovely, full and rich, not thin or sharp or warbly or screechy. I'd predict that she was going to go on to a successful career in opera, but it probably turns out that that's not the kind of beautiful voice they want in opera at all...

There was some alternating of roles, and in fact there was one singer who I did recognise in the programme, but she wasn't on this night - Joanna Marie Skillett, who was the other Iolanta, who we've seen in Charles Court Opera in Ruddigore and Billy The Kid. I remember thinking in Ruddigore that - again to the untrained ear - that she sounded quite 'operatic' in style; it would have been interesting to hear her in this. (It also demonstrated that though they were all students, some of them are already also working.)