DLR Glasthule Opera

 

Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire

Bizet — Carmen. Gluck — Orfeo ed Euridice

The principal parts in both all-Irish casts of Glasthule Opera’s second annual season were filled with distinction.

Doreen Curran smouldered in the title role of Carmen, combining astute drama with a wealth of apposite vocal colour. Anthony Kearns proved a top-notch Don José, rising to each decisive moment with quality to spare, while Brendan Collins brought stirring and aristocratic tones to the part of Escamillo.

Emily Alexander sang with more determined expressiveness than might be expected from the village maiden Micaëla, but it was difficult to be persuaded by the French enunciation of student singers Brian McIntyre and Kris Kendellen, performing in their respective soldierly roles of Zuniga and Moralès.

There was, however, strong support from Ross Scanlon and Robert Duff as the two smugglers, who turned out some deft ensemble work, with students Helene Hutchinson as Frasquita, and Gillian Hopper as Mercédès.

Children from Harold School enjoyed themselves as a line-up of singing street urchins, while the unified and fresh-toned adult chorus proved one of the production’s consistent strengths.

There was polish too, in much of the instrumental playing, with conductor David Brophy dispatching the sprightlier numbers with efficient drive. More rehearsal time would doubtless have brought an easier flow to the segues and recitatives.

With little more than a few tables and tea chests for a set, director John White seemed to exploit every nook and cranny of the restricted space, while leaving the dramatic progress broadly in focus.

In contrast to the inescapably busy Carmen, the almost purely psychological Orfeo ed Euridiceallowed Ian Walsh’s less-is-more design and direction to capitalise on the studio setting. The Tribal Chamber Choir, under Niamh O’Kelly, tackled Gluck’s weighty offstage choruses in a madrigalian style that was sadly unequal to the drama.

Mark Keane’s dutiful musical direction emphasised sameness rather than variety and found little elasticity or grace in the recitatives. Lucy Dundon’s imaginative and modernistic choreography, however, defined pivotal functions for her six young dancers, whose slick morphings represented Stygian creatures, a human trellis, and attendants at some Elysian reflexology clinic.

Chiefly, though, what secured this production was the trio of young soloists.

Katy Kelly was silver-toned as Euridice and Sarah Reddin was fittingly cherubic in the allegorical part of Amor.

Raphaela Mangan may not yet have the concluding aria of act one quite within her grasp, but she embraced the demanding role of Orfeo in a manner that was powerfully convincing.