All images by Ben Apfelbaum.
Sergei Prokofiev was undertaking a successful tour in the US when he was asked by the Chicago Symphony to compose an opera. In 1921 it was performed in the States and in 1926 in Russia. Because it had an unappealing script for the time, it was the antithesis of Puccini’s realism and contained no arias, and it was poorly received. However, this opera reflected the art movement of the time absorbing the fragmentation of Picasso and the surrealism of Dali.
Thank goodness it was revived in 1949 in the States by which time public taste had caught up with its avant garde satire and since then the opera has been regularly performed by a opera companies around the world.
The plot defies a short synopsis but in the Opera Australia production suffice it to say, it is a combination of nineteen twenties movie star allusions, the commedia dell’arte and Alice In Wonderland.
There is a cranky witch Fata Morgana played by Antoinette Halloran who looks like Gloria Swanson, and a clown Truffaldino played by Kanen Breen, whose warm bass added extra comedy to his zany character. There are characters dressed as cards and harlequins like those encountered by Alice, a princess with a rats head, and dancing cacti.
The multi hued set design by George Tsypin combined with the crisp direction of Francesca Zambello facilitates the speed and ever nonsensical absurdist passage of the piece to its happy ever after conclusion.
Zambello’s set and the costumes by Tanya Noginova are a riot of colour and the singers sometimes perform from impossibly awkward positions without any diminution of volume and quality.
The farce is overseen by a Lord Of The Rings type eye or perhaps it is a reference to the eye in Luis Bunuel’s and Salvador Dali’s UN CHIEN ANDALOU.
Rosario La Spina as the hypochondriacal and obsessive Prince is unexpectedly comedic (due to his casting in more solemn operas) and brings a warmth to his character with his lovely tenor voice.
Julie Lea Goodwin’s sweet soprano complements her character beautifully as the heroine Princess Ninetta.
I mentioned Kanen Breen’s extraordinary clown performance, but really all the Company must be congratulated on the excellence of their acting abilities which ranged from an S and M dominatrix through to a humongous fat cook.
Like last years’ A Turk In Italy and this years’ Barber of Saville, both by Rossini, this superb production is a comic triumph.
Running time is 2 hours 15 minutes including one twenty minute interval.
Prokofiev’s FOR LOVE OF ORANGE is playing the Joan Sutherland theatre, Sydney Opera House until July 9.