BWW Review: A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at Wilmink Theater En Muziekcentrum Enschede: stunning & delicious!
Sometimes you watch a production and experience total perfection. Yesterday evening was such a night. Sondheim's A Little Night Music performed by the Nederlandse Reisopera, an opera company which chose to work on Sondheim musicals (Sweeney Todd was their earlier production), next to classic opera repertoire. And my oh my, what an excellent choice to do so.
The decor is an gorgeous red-burgundy environment, which smartly transforms to either the house of lawyer Egerman, to the house of Desirée Armfeldt and everything in between. The second act is set at the beautiful marble-looking country-house, trees and all, portraying the house of Madame Armfeldt. The combination of the exquisite decor by Charlap Hyman & Herrero and the gorgeous and enviable dresses and costumes done by Cynthia Talmadge are perfect and complement each other in a way that is rarely seen.
Sondheim is not everybody's cup of tea. He's known for his complex musical score where timing (and counting for the singers) is key. This performance is in English, with Dutch and English surtitles above the stage. Being able to read along with actors lines, only adds to the realisation that not only the vocal score is incredibly challenging, the libretto is as well. Sondheim doesn't shy away from complex, yet stunningly beautiful songs and dialogue.
Het Gelders Orkest only adds to this excellence. The score is made to be played live, with an orchestra which understands the essence of the story.
The cast is a mix of musical theatre performers and opera singers. This mix works really well. The blend of vocals, light in timbre versus heavy/classical in timbre is spot on. Paul Groot plays Fredrik Egerman and Laetitia Gerards plays his young wife Anne. After 11 months of marriage, they have yet to consummate the marriage, much to Fredrik's frustration. His old flame, the glamorous and celebrated actress Desirée Armfeldt (Susan Rigvava-Dumas) is back in town after touring, and Frederik rekindles their flame.
The story is like a musical-chair of affairs (or 'Liaisons' as told in the witty song of Madame Armfeldt, a strong role by Inez Timmer) and mismatches. 'The Night Smiles' is the common theme throughout the story, standing for the foolishness of man. The first smile is for the young, who know nothing. The second smile is for the fools, who still know too little. Finally the third smile is for the old, who know too much.
Standing out in particular in a great cast to start with, are Hadleigh Adams (Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm) and comic relief Sanne Franssen (Petra, the maid of Anne). She's wickedly funny as Petra, and tries to stir up all the etiquette surrounding her. Adams' character Count Malcolm is unreasonable and jealous. He's flammable but passionate, and his vocals are ridicously stunning, which serves his character well.
In conclusion, if you're a fan of beauty, stunning music and/or Sondheim fan, do yourself a favor. Go.
And finally, the rendition of Susan Rigvava-Dumas as Desirée of classic Send in the Clowns is without a doubt the best I've ever seen.
For more info and tickets: www.reisopera.nl
Photo credit by: Marco Borggreve