Performers turn a period piece into a musical romp
Old enough to have delighted Napoleon III, inspired by Greek mythology, and French. Reasons enough for Salisbury Operatic Society to take 60 years to get around to Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. Yet if last week’s third revival at the City Hall is any yardstick, the oldest show in the society’s considerable repertoire is also one of the least dated.
While credit must go in part to the topicality of Barry Mcllroy’s lively direction, Offenbach’s outrageous disregard for operatic form and protocol still has the potential to surprise. Nor can it be any criticism to say the 40-strong company seemed to be having as much fun as paying customers.
Under John Dempster’s baton, the orchestra moved the colourful score at a great pace to ensure a romping response from the players on stage.
While I inclined to accept that amplification is inevitable in arenas like the City Hall, last week’s performance exploded the argument. Certainly, principal voices here seemed well able to project themselves, resulting in occasional stridency when they forgot about the mikes. Australian soprano Kathy Campbell was both the clearest and most mike-friendly voice as Eurydice. Not all principals could match her high standard, though overall balance of the leading players was good. Jenny Mears was a chorus in herself as Calliope, with a tidy performance from Michael Bolton in the title role. David Coxon was a formidable Jupiter, shattering headphones on the control desk, and there was a colourful performance as Pluto by Christian Jull. A particularly engaging caricature came from Andy Morris as Styx detached from the real world, as well as, at times, the orchestra! And the racing Kevin Murdoch sparkled as Mercury, thoroughly puffed out, one might say.
Some of the chorus movement might have been more imaginative, though energies were perhaps being spared for the great cancan, which provided a rumbustious finale.
Thanks so much for you very kind welcome to me and my companions at your matinee performance of your latest production ‘Orpheus in the Underworld’.
The title certainly gives no clue to the witty satirical operetta which I thoroughly enjoyed and I was full of admiration for the fact that the cast would be performing the show again in the evening.
An overall colourful, energetic encompassing music, dance, drama and complemented brilliantly by the orchestral music, costume, lighting and sound. Kathy Campbell’s lovely light voice was ideal for the part of Euridice and the sound filled the auditorium magically. I am sure Kathy’s obvious talent will be greatly missed when she returns to the Antipodes. Well done Christian for his interpretation of the handsome swaggering lover – he would have to be worth leaving Earth for and he was! David as Jupiter gave an excellent performance – an interesting accent – is it your own or deliberately chosen? Mercury played by Kevin brought an element of frothy frivolity to the operetta and it was obvious that Kevin was totally immersed in the part. I hope it hasn’t been too difficult to return to a normal walk! Well done to all the other principals who had been well cast. The chorus added the fullness of sound which was well balance and the colourful spectacle of their costumes all added to the richness of the production.
The two scenes I particularly liked from a lighting and atmosphere point of view were the setting for Mount Olympus and the terrific colour of the finale. This was my second visit to Salisbury and your excellent standard has been maintained. I will look forward with anticipation to your interpretation of ‘Oklahoma’.