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BWW Review: LOVE, SEX AND DEATH – CABARET OPERA at The Madrigal Room, At The Opera Studio

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Thursday 15th June 2017

June is cabaret month in Adelaide. Taking a break from the Cabaret Festival and Cabaret Fringe, I took in State Opera of South Australia's Love, Sex and Death - Cabaret Opera. Director and designer, Velalien, has transformed the Opera Studio into a cabaret venue to present an extravaganza encompassing opera, musical theatre, and more.

The Overture, Saint Saëns's Danse Macabre, with musical director Dale Ringland on piano and Rob Wallace on violin, started the performance. Jeremy Tatchell oversaw the proceedings, in the role of the Devil, introducing and gloating over the misdemeanours and misfortunes of the characters that paraded before us as we sipped our wine and nibbled on the complimentary cheese and olives.

First on stage, after a brief introduction from the three witches, sung by Tatchell, Courtney Turner, and Desiree Frahn, were the Macbeths, Joanna McWaters beginning with a scene from Shakespeare's play, washing her hands of blood, then a selection from Verdi's opera, with Adam Goodburn singing the aria in which Macbeth asks "is this a dagger I see before me?", before being joined by McWaters for the Act 2 Scene 1 duet in which they decide that the sons of Banquo must die to defy the prophesy of the three witches.

The old jazz number, Why Don't You Do Right, sung by Courtney Turner, separated Macbeth from Madame Butterfly, and those two are better kept apart, being tragic enough individually. Turner .

In opera, women cross-dressing as young men, in what are referred to as pants roles, is not uncommon. In cabaret, the reverse cross-dressing is hardly a new idea. This performance, therefore, fitted both genres as Hew Wagner took on the role of Cio Cio San, known better as Butterfly. Tatchell appeared as the Devil inhabiting Sharpless in the Letter Duet, before Wagner gave a very fine performance of One Fine Day. Dancer and choreographer, Aidan Kane Munn joined Butterfly, adding some impressive stylised martial arts moves to assist her in her suicide.

To close the first half, the ensemble, making the most of the opportunity to be raunchier than opera performances generally allow, combined to sing a rowdy and rousing version of Mein Herr, from the musical Cabaret, a very appropriate number on which to take a break.

The second half began with another tragic opera, Puccini's Tosca, where we found the evil Baron Scarpia, Tatchell as the Devil taking over the Baron's body, trying to seduce Tosca in return for her lover, Caravadossi's, life and unimpeded passage for their escape. She ends his lust with a dagger, having taken possession of the signed letter. Heir was plenty of tensions and emotion in this encounter at the hands of these two singers.

Opera singers can dance, at least, those in Adelaide can, and Goodburn joined Munn in a film noir inspired pas de deux to the theme from the film, The Man With the Golden Arm, which starred Frank Sinatra as a drug addict, the golden arm referring to the cost of the drugs he had injected during his life.

Wagner then returned as Maria, (or should that be Mario?) with Turner joining him as Anita, and they sang a song of love and loss from West Side Story, A Boy Like That, which Wagner followed with a very sensitive rendition of I Have a Love.

Love, lust, sex, betrayal, murder, opera has it all, and Carmen is one of the most concentrated of the lot. Frahn took on the role of the fiery gypsy and gave us a superb interpretation of the Habanera, and the proceeded to the duet from the end of the play in which she berates and is killed her jealous ex-lover, José, Tatchell once more becoming the villain.

A turn to musical theatre once again and The Cellblock Tango, from Chicago, brought the entire ensemble together once more for the sensational finale. Much applause followed, and an extra bow would have been quite in order.

So there we had it, six of Adelaide's wonderful singers, a marvellous small orchestra under Dale Ringland's leadership, music, dance, and theatre, a well-designed venue, hiding the open starkness of the Opera Studio, great costumes, a few good wines to choose from at the bar, nibbles provided, and a good time to be had by all. What more could one want?

The performance is being repeated on Friday and Saturday evenings, so you still have time to catch this excellent night out, but book quickly.

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From This Author Barry Lenny