Thursday, August 08, 2013

Britten showing his pacifist side

Strange choice, yes, but it is the best recent video I could find, to show how Morgan Pearse sounds now.

So, Owen Wingrave, hey? Or, if you like, the time I finally pop my live Britten opera cherry. And, the first time I walked out of the end of an opera stunned. Stunned in a good way, as, having no idea of the story going in, beyond the outsider not fitting into the military family idea, I was invested in the story and the ending when it happened, was a powerful kick to the heart. I firmly believe that the sobs I heard on stage, were being matched by someone behind me, who was stunned by the ending. If you do not know the story, I recommend you see this without finding out the ending, it is so much more powerful that way.

So, yes, I loved this. But, as impressed as I was watching it played out on stage, I do not believe I would have enjoyed this as much just listening. This is an opera to watch, to listen and to absorb, then get angry about. It would not work as a pleasant listen like a Mozart or similar would, it all derives from the story.

So, anyway, this really was Owen's show, or, should I say, Morgan Pearse's show. If last time I heard him I was impressed, this time, I was shocked and stunned. This was the sort of performance that careers can be built on. Powerful, yet always musical and vocally in control, he portrayed the progression from confused but determined to determined but crushed by the family ghosts that surround him. To say that this was the most powerful and moving staged performance I have seen since Emma Matthew's Lucia gives you an idea of how he takes this role and makes it his own. This will stay with me for a long time. And haunt me.

As his good friend Lechmere, Pascal Herrington gave another of his fine performances. Yes, he was in the shade of Morgan, but, considering his strength as a performer, this was no surprise. His singing and acting, once again proving this is a performer with a big career ahead of him, as his voice grows to match his already impressive acting skills. A tall fair haired tenor who acts? That hardly seems fair. The fact that I know him for a genuinely nice guy as well is cruel! He brought humanity and a sense of normality with his role, as well as singing the crucial "there was a boy" telling of the ghost story in clear diction that in many ways was the emotional heart of this piece.

Also another impressively good was Emily Edmonds as Kate, the girl who had expected to marry the hero soldier Owen, but does not know how to deal with the new found pacifist Owen. The big demands of the role were a great fit for her big voice, and she was convincing as the girl with her eye on the prize, found wanting when the prize is not what was expected. Another performer I want to hear a lot more of.

As is Georgia Bassingthwaighte as Mrs Coyle, the wife of his military teacher, the only sympathetic characters who try to understand and care for Owen, when his family turn against him. Bringing the sympathetic characters to life against the cruel and tradition bound family, the Coyles were both well played and sung, though Simon Lobelson seemed lacking power vocally in his role.

But really, there were no bad performances in this piece. A couple of voices seemed miscast, but all the characterisations were vivd and strong, with some clever use of the space, although, I can't help wondering if maybe we would have been more shocked by the ending, if the room had not been set front and centre, and rather Owen was out of site, making the ending purely the reactions, not what happens.

But, that was a small quibble, for what was a very powerful night of theatre, where they also sang.

This is the "there was a boy" section, only half as chilling as it was presented by Sydney Chamber Opera.

The original production, for TV, conducted by the composer

Sydney Chamber Opera - Owen Wingrave from Hospital Hill on Vimeo.

 This was just recently put on line. You really get a feel for what the production was like with this.

No comments: