BWW Review: THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES Is A Bizarre, Juicy, Fairytale Feast Of Color And Comedy
Wednesday 22nd June 2016, 7:30pm, Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera HouseOpera Australia's interpretation of Sergei Prokofief's THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES returns to delight and entrance Sydney audiences. An explosion of colour, light, and fabulous physicality, this work breaks the mould of traditional opera with animated, accessible music and clever lyrics.
Matthew Barclay (Revival Director) brings Francesca Zambello's (Director) vision back to life 11 years after it first graced the Joan Sutherland Theatre stage in 2005. Zambello's surrealist staging blends pantomime, musical theatre, and circus with traditional opera to transport the audience to a time when they believed in fairy tales, wonder, and ridiculous stories. Tanya Noginova's bright costumes, inspired by contemporary and traditional circus, silent movies and storybooks pop against George Tsypin's minimalistic, surgical set of aluminium and whimsical Perspex, lit up like and installation from the recent VIVID festival of lights. There are elements reminiscent of WICKED's round windows, Cirque du Soleil's lycra clad anthropomorphised objects, Alice in Wonderland's deck of cards characters, Charlie Chaplin's silent movie era and characters that look like they've been pulled out of a 1950's American hot dog advertisement. Noginova's expression of the mysterious oranges that the Prince and Truffaldino are sent to find are wonderful in their layers and magic.
Presented in English using Tom Stoppard's translations, THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES tells the story of the King of Clubs (David Parkin) seeking to save his kingdom from being left without an heir as his only son, the Prince (Rosario La Spina), is struck with melancholia and hypochondria. Calling on the aid of court jester Truffaldino (Kanen Breen), the ploy to entertain the Prince falls foul of scheming dominatrix Princesses and vengeful sorcerers leading to bizarre desert treks in search of enchanted citrus. Satisfying the "spectators" that grace the prologue and occupy the balcony boxes, the story contains tragedy, romantic comedy, lyric drama and farce as it parodies the staid, conventional opera, in turn satisfying audiences that can laugh at themselves.
Whilst Tsypin's visually impressive white box set with high balcony platform affects the acoustics of the performance, causing normally powerful voices to be lost when not downstage, there are some wonderful performances. Antoinette Halloran as evil sorcerer Fata Morgana is imposing as she captures the darkness of Disneyesque villainesses with power and clarity. Stricken Prince, presented by Rosario La Spina brings an element of musical theatre with his more natural pronunciations when compared to the exaggerated opera vowels drawn out by other characters. Margaret Trubiano gives Dominatrix styled Princess Clarissa, who has eyes on the throne, power and authority, in contrast to Andrew Moran's quieter, submissive expression of her lover, Prime Minister Leander. Julie Lea Goodwin captures the Prince's lucky "Orange", Ninetta, with a sweetness and purity.
The stand out performance comes from Kanen Breen as court jester Truffaldino who lights up the stage as a delicious amalgam of Charlie Chaplin, an old world harlequin and traditional big-top circus clown called on to cure the Prince with laughter. Breen's clear expression ensures that every word of Stoppard's clever translations is captured. His beautiful vocal flexibility is matched by his physicality which extends from broad theatrics to wonderful facial expressions which ensures that you can't take your eyes off him whenever he is onstage.
In addition to Truffaldino's fabulous movement, Choreographer Denni Sayers brings the characters of cacti, horny and drunken monsters, a pack of cards and an army of devils to life with dance and acrobatics that draws on musical theatre pastiche and circus tumbling. The characterisation of the first of the two performances designed to induce the prince to laugh are however presented in a way that could limit the audience. The story and presentation could otherwise be suitable for younger audiences in a similar way to THE MAGIC FLUTE if not for the three legged monster and bulbous nosed drunkard.
THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES is a beautiful, energetic fairy tale for adults that will appeal to audiences willing to embrace something different, particularly from a musical perspective as Prokofief's orchestrations take on a capricious, playful, energy. THE LOVE FOR THREE ORANGES is a wonderful introduction to opera, particularly for those more familiar with musical theatre and a great treat for seasoned opera goers that can laugh at themselves as they, along with the genre, are gently mocked with the subtle satire.
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
June 22, 24, 28, 30
July 2, 4, 6, 9 (matinee)