Tag: Georgia Wilkinson

Review: Il Mago di Oz

Journey into another world, by Owen James

Victorian Opera’s production of Il Mago di Oz (The Wizard Of Oz) is a delightful cornucopia of music, design, and storytelling that is sure to put a Ozian smile on your face. Keeping faithful to L. Frank Baum’s original text (now 122 years young), composer Pierangelo Valtinoni and librettist Paolo Madron incorporate characters and plot points that differ slightly from the famous 1939 film, keeping us intrigued every step along the Yellow Brick Road, and twisting our expectations to ensure their work stands on its own in the labyrinth of Oz adaptations.

Georgia Wilkinson shines as Dorothy, a role she was born to play. Adorned in silver shoes (as the original novel dictates – no ruby slippers here!), Wilkinson glides over impossible motifs and confidently fills every crevice of the magnificent Palais without amplification. Her high notes in the penultimate scene melt effortlessly in the air, and she pulls us in to Dorothy’s fairytale with expert repartee between fellow cast and audience alike, emanating joy for performance in every beat.

The Scarecrow (Michael Dimovski), The Tin Man (Stephen Marsh), and The Cowardly Lion (James Emerson) are an equally matched troupe, in vocal prowess and high-strung comedic energy. They each have a distinct sound that defines their characters, and together, provide a masterful blend for a male trio – among the best I’ve heard.

Tiernan Maclaren is the audience favourite as thoroughly over the top Guardian of the Gates, and The Wizard Of Oz himself. Maclaren cracks smiles not only throughout the audience, but in the ranks of the masterful children’s chorus, a highlight every time they pour onstage. Staging Director Constantine Consti has given these cheeky munchkins clear, defined movement – an impressive feat given their number and age!

There are no hummable melodies in Pierangelo Valtinoni’s score, but still it is a musical paradise. The children’s chorus are used to spectacular effect, especially in darker moments, where their haunting phrases remind me of compositions by Michael Abels and Indigenous ensemble Spinifex Gum. Valtinoni captures the atmosphere for each scene with rousing orchestration (divinely conducted by Chad Matthias Kelly), embellished by Paolo Madron’s often amusing libretto, which makes skilful use of purposely out of place slang, always rewarded with a laugh. Daniel Gosling’s projection and lighting design amplifies this magical score, reaching its apex when Dorothy and crew arrive at the Emerald City; the Palais shimmers in green from top to bottom. Costumes by Mel Serjeant are stunning, beautifully tailored for each character and packed with detail.

Il Mago di Oz ran for only two performances, and is another remarkable new work from Victorian Opera. Here’s hoping the season’s success prompts a return in the near future: https://www.victorianopera.com.au/season/il-mago-di-oz

REVIEW: Left Bauer Productions Presents MASTER CLASS

Intimate and involving theatre

By Bradley Storer

Terrence McNally’s Master Class, a play about the life of Greek opera singer Maria Callas whose artistry and career revolutionised the landscape of 20th century opera, comes to fortyfivedownstairs with the brilliant Maria Mercedes as the tragic diva.

Master Class

The intimate theatre space at fortyfivedownstairs is perfect for the play set as a masterclass in the twilight of Callas’s career, the era signalled effectively by the 70’s fashion worn by the cast. Mercedes enters the room with an air of quiet authority, an iron fist wrapped in silk, taking charge of the stage and the accompanist (Cameron Thomas) in short order. Mercedes is the embodiment of the word ‘diva’ – narcissistic, commanding and uncompromising but with such charisma and a depth of artistic integrity that it is easier to see how this figure still fascinates today. Mercedes manages to find the undercurrents of charm, self-deprecation and kindness in the character which also make her surprisingly likeable.

The three students who Callas teaches over the course of the play are all equally as brilliant – Robert Barbaro as the sole male participant Tony brings a potent masculine swagger and a heart-meltingly beautiful tenor to the role. Anna-Louise Cole as Sharon, the only student with the guts to stand up to the opera superstar, radiates a subdued determination which rises to the surface as she faces off against Callas – her dramatic soprano is showcased to jaw-dropping effect in an tremendously difficult aria from Verdi’s Macbeth. The best of the lot is Georgia Wilkinson as Sophie, a bubbly coloratura soprano, and Wilkinson plays her so winningly that it is hard to take your eyes off her, even when she is simply standing side stage observing Callas.

As she watches her students singing roles she herself made famous, Callas is drawn into internal monologues of operatic proportions, brutally delving into the depths of her poverty-stricken childhood, her ill-fated love affair with Aristotle Onassis, the demons of self-doubt, bitterness and adolescent insecurity which swirl into implosive arias of painful triumph and gut-wrenching loss.

At the end of the master class, Callas stands alone, reflecting to the audience on the simultaneous joy and loneliness of a life devoted to art, saying that she will be satisfied if she has had an effect on even a single person – it’s hard to imagine how anyone could leave this masterfully directed play without feeling affected by the soul of this great artist.

Venue: 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Dates: 19 – 28th August
Times: Tuesday to Friday 8pm, Saturday 4:30pm and 8pm, Sunday 4:30
Tickets: Full $38, Concession $30, Under 30’s $30, Groups (10+) $30, Preview $30
Bookings: Phone – 03 9662 9966, Online at www.fortyfivedownstairs.com