16 May 2012

Victorian Opera: Midnight Son

Midnight Son
Victorian Opera 
6 May 2012

What a complete sleaze he was. And absolutely convincing. The voice – in other circumstances, a beautiful first-class baritone - or is it a rich tenor? But in this part, Byron Watson’s voice had an edge of hardness and cruelty even in the last (ie, “first”) scene. 
In any successful narrative the reader must warm to or identify with one major character. Ray was not that character even in the extremity of his self-convinced innocence. In a word, the part worked both musically and dramatically.

Midnight Son was always going to be a risky venture especially in conservative Melbourne. Gordon Kerry’s score is contemporary and certainly not melodic but it is very accessible and it works superbly with Louis Nowra’s text. It seems to me that Nowra’s awful rhymes serve not to lighten the whole sordid affair but drive it deeper into awfulness.

A clever libretto, a clever score and soloists who were the part – not acting/singing the part – Midnight Son was a winner. The orchestra knew what the word “accompany” meant and the knew what the word “dramatic” meant.

Dimity Shepherd was an absolutely convincing fool to be sucked in by Ray’s sex appeal. He gave her enough hints, for goodness sake. “Will you swing for me?” and she thought he meant groupie parties where the ropes were not around her neck. But the sell-out aria was Antoinette Halloran’s torch song. I mean, are you sure she’s an opera singer? Poor Marisa/Maria/Juliet. The Good Catholic Girl for whom “swinging” meant something you do in the park on a sunny afternoon with your kids. But underneath that GCG was the luscious, warm woman that Ray apparently never found.

The first-night audience response was not terribly warm. But some elderly ladies – a straw poll of two – assured me that they really liked it, that the score did not put them off and that they were glad the plot was reversed because it gave them "something nice to go home with". 

This production is opera with balls. Big balls!

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