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Stage Dragon Review: A Masked Ball At The Electric Theatre

Published on: 22 Nov, 2018
Updated on: 26 Nov, 2018

by Tricia Marcotti

The Guildford Opera Company has brought Verdi’s opera A Masked Ball to the Electric Theatre this week.

From an original libretto in Italian, it has been translated into English by Peter Melville.

While I like hearing opera sung in Italian on a recording which lets you listen to music, I find that watching a performance in English means I understand more while also enjoying the music. I do hope that Verdi is not turning in his grave!

The Magistrate discussing a case with Count Riccardo (Alex Haigh) watched by Oscar (Callie Gaston) and Renato (Przemyslaw Baranek) on the set of A Masked Ball at the Electric Theatre..

The music was live, provided by a chamber orchestra in the capable hands of Lewis Gaston. While only seven instruments, in the Electric Theatre they provided the volume and nuances of a symphony orchestra.

Once or twice I found that the voices were drowned by the orchestra, most notably when the artists were towards the back of the stageI was taken aback at the number of cast members in the programme, and thought they would never all fit on the stage at once! How wrong I was, for fit they did and still had room to move about.

This may have been made possible by the minimalistic set, which allowed the cast to add a chair or table and then to remove it when it was no longer required.

Passion is high as Renato argues with Amelia (Natalie Johnson-Hyde).

I especially loved the gallows – it looked like a really big chunk of granite – but when I saw it moving off the set, I realised it was a very good paint job!

Stephen Oliver has directed his cast in making the most of the Electric Theatre’s facilities as I saw only flawless movements enabling the cast to interact with each other, yet fade away when necessary.

The use of offstage conversations made the set seem larger and let the onstage characters react to people we could not see.

Not only did we have an orchestra, we also had dancers!

Renato and Oscar with the dancers and guests at the Masked Ball. A huge cast on the minimalistic but sophisticated set at the Electric Theatre.

During the masked ball, these ladies entertained the invited guests. Their choreographer, Gretchen Fox Kiefer, ensured that their dance was smoothly performed within their allocated space on stage. Well done dancers!

Alex Haigh as Count Riccardo was one of four characters who almost never left the stage. Przemyslaw Baranek (Renato), Natalie Johnson-Hyde (Amelia), and Callie Gaston (Oscar) were the other three.

I looked for signs of fatigue throughout the performance, but their voices sounded as fresh at the end as they did in the beginning.

And what voices they have. They hit the high notes, they hit the low. They sang with fervour, pathos and happiness.

The chorus were in fine voice too. While they came and went often, they moved smoothly about the stage, which for the ladies was no mean feat, as their costumes were more voluminous than the men’s.

What more could an audience want? It was obvious to me that all the cast enjoyed what they were performing. From the huge applause at the end, the audience did too.

The run is from Wednesday, November 21 to Saturday, November 24. You can book tickets online or by calling the Electric Theatre on 01483 501 200.

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