Tag: Stephen Marsh

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: The Selfish Giant

A giant production with so much to love

By Narelle Wood 

Victorian Opera Youth Opera brand new work, The Selfish Giant – based on the Oscar Wilde short story of the same name – is sure to become a favourite for opera aficionados and newbies alike.

Under the Direction of Cameron Menzies, we follow the story of the giant (Stephen Marsh) as he comes home from an extended trip to find his beloved garden overrun with happily playing children. Scarred from his childhood, and wanting the garden all to himself, the giant scares the children away. The next day Spring (Saffrey Brown) arrives with her fairies (Stephanie Ciantar and Chloe Maree Harris) to wake up the garden, but something is wrong. Soon after Snow (Michael Dimovski), Wind (Noah Ryland) and Frost (Darcy Carroll) arrive with Winter (Olivia Federow-Yemm), looking for a place to call home. Spotting the deserted garden they make themselves at home. After some time has passed, children again find their way back into the garden, prompting the selfish giant to think about sharing. Winter is banished and Spring returns.

Composer Simon Bruckard’s captures the story with dynamic shifts in mood, from the playfulness of the children and the grumpiness of the giant to the sprightly spring and the glacial winter. Some of my favourite moments come from the children playing, where librettist Emma Muir-Smith has managed to capture both the fun-loving and at-times menacing behaviour of children, in a very Oscar Wilde-esque way. There are moments of endearing wit, especially from the Dimovski, Ryland and Carroll whose characters lend themselves to Wilde’s frivolity. I wondered whether there were more moments to capture Wilde’s sardonic wit, especially for the giant.

While James Browne’s set is minimalist, the dimensions and angles of the stage and carefully placed set pieces creates the impression of an imposing house, suitable to contain an imposing giant. Browne’s costumes, however, were one of my favourite things in a production where there was just so much to love. Menzies’ use of props to represent the garden is incredible, as are all the performances. Marsh is endearing as the giant, even when he’s been selfish, and the Youth Chorus and Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra are faultless in their supporting roles.

Tickets to this world premiere were hard to come by, and it’s easy to see why. This is a charming opera showcasing the immense talent that all of these performers have to offer. The run was short, but hopefully The Selfish Giant will get the revival it deserves.

For more Victorian Opera performances and tickets go to victorianopera.com.au

Photography courtesy of Charlie Kinross