The 47th Saturday review: Nicely paced but vocal projection is overdone

Wexford Festival Opera: Young cast cope well with demands of Andrew Synnott’s music

The final performance of The 47th Saturday is on Thursday, October 28th at 3.30pm.  Photograph: David Sleator

The final performance of The 47th Saturday is on Thursday, October 28th at 3.30pm. Photograph: David Sleator

 

The 47th Saturday

National Opera House, Wexford
★★★☆☆
Composer Andrew Synnott, artist-in-residence and chorus master of Wexford Festival Opera, has set a record that’s going to be hard to beat. He is the first living Irish composer to have had an opera on the festival’s main stage, and Monday’s premiere of The 47th Saturday is his third smaller-scale piece mounted by the festival.

Vivienne Howard’s libretto is based on a story by William Trevor, about an affair between Mavie, a young woman, and McCarthy, an older man. She is eager and needy. He is selfish and mean, down to handing back the carrier bag for a bottle of wine to save a couple of pence. And every week he leaves their assignation to go back to a wife and family that don’t exist.

The work is nicely paced and, in the open space of the Green Acres upstairs gallery, director Stefania Panighini fluidly handles the move from off-licence to kitchen to bedroom to cinema (McCarthy’s other weekly destination) using a trio of stage handlers.

The young cast, drawn from the festival chorus and the Wexford Factory, cope well with the characterisation and the demands of Synnott’s music. But the vocal projection, especially from soprano Fiona Finsbury’s Mavie, is overdone for such a small, low-ceilinged space where no one is that far away from the singers.

Tenor Andrew Gavin conveys vividly the chilling manipulativeness of McCarthy, and soprano Kathleen Norchi, mezzo-soprano Anna Brady and tenor Vladimir Sima nimbly fill out the smaller parts.

The composer conducts a piano trio – Lynda O’Connor, Gerald Peregrine and Giorgio D’Alonzo – in a score that, sadly, is rather anodyne by comparison with his earlier work for the festival.

The final performance of The 47th Saturday is on Thursday, October 28th at 3.30pm

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