Sydney Independent Opera present an unusual double bill this weekend with its productions of Gustav Holst’s The Wandering Scholar and Puccini’s The Cloak (Il Tabarro).
The Wandering Scholar was Holst’s last and most successful opera (he wrote four)*. It is a work in miniature, written in one act for a small orchestra and just four singers (tenor, bass, baritone and soprano).
Colin Matthews in Oxford Music believes that in The Wandering Scholar, Holst was finally able to express his quirky sense of humour. It is simply written and sets the words of Clifford Bax, brother of the composer Arnold Bax, based on an incident from Helen Waddell’s book The Wandering Scholars. Illness prevented Holst from attending the premiere in 1934, and the work was forgotten until Britten re-discovered it for the English Opera Group in 1951. The operatic score, published in 1968 was edited by Britten and Imogen Holst.
Elli Green, Raphael Hudson, Murray Dahm, and Daniel Sloman make up the cast of singers conducted by Steven Stanke, Artistic Director of Sydney Independent Opera, and directed by Brendan Carmody, with Assistant Director Paulo Montoya. Carmody was the inaugural winner of the 2011 Berlin New Music Award presented by the Opera Foundation to develop the skills of non-singing members of the operatic production team. The award took Carmody to Berlin where he worked at the Berlin Komische Oper with Barrie Kosky.
Puccini’s The Cloak (Il Tabarro) is most often seen as the first of three operas in his trilogy Il Trittico. Away from the pathos of Suor Angelica, and the buffo of Gianni Schicchi, its companion operas, the full power of its drama, passion and ultimately, horror is exposed.
Steven Stanke, Brendan Carmody and Paulo Montoya are again Conductor, Director and Assistant Director of a cast that comprises Sarah Walker, Hester Hannah, Randall Stewart, David Visentin, Paul Goodwin-Groen, Rik Dawson Minh Huynh and Mitch Bryson.
Sydney Independent Opera was established in 2011 by Steven Stanke, with the intention of presenting small -scale operas in English with a chamber orchestra, dispelling myths that opera is only ever only described as ‘grand’ and that it has to be in a language other than English to be the real thing. The flexibility offered by focusing on chamber sized productions allows the company to undertake new commissions and lesser known works. Indeed, had Britten and Imogen Holst not revived the ‘lesser known’ Scholar, Sydney audiences would not have had the opportunity to hear it.
*Holsts other three opera are Savitri, The Boar’s Head and The Perfect Fool.
Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney