Short and sweet for St Albans Chamber Opera

ONE of the delights of St Albans Chamber Opera’s regular productions at the Maltings Arts Theatre is that it introduces its audience to short works which are not often performed.

Such was the case last week when the company staged Thomas Pasatieri’s La Divina and Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. Both one act operas can be seen as a comment on modern life: the first dealing with a “Sinatra” situation when the great star gives a final performance – only to decided to do another the following week, while the second looks at a failing marriage,

While La Divina, directed by Paula Chitty, was certainly amusing, for my money it did not provide the cast with sufficient opportunity to really show their musical worth. Soprano Anna Samant, who stepped into the lead role at the last minute, obviously had a fine voice but the work gave her little opportunity to demonstrate it.

The role of Cecily, her companion, did not appear to completely suit Rebecca Muhley and neither Richard Arundel as her manager nor Warren Albers as the conductor seemed completely relaxed.

However Trouble in Tahiti was a completely different kettle of fish. Although the subject matter was a little downbeat Bernstein’s music was a delight. Its glorious, often jazzy, sound held hints of West Side Story which was to come several years later and really suited Rebecca Muhley, Warren Albers and Ton Handley as the jazz trio which acted as a link and narrator between scenes.

Deborah Davison as Dinah the “suburban housewife” and Richard Arundel as her husband Sam, her pushy and professionally successful husband, both gave first-class performances and director Peter Kestner excelled with his use of the simple one-size-fits-all set

Pianist Julian Barber, who accompanied both operas, must also be congratulated on an excellent performance which added tremendously to the overall success of the productions.

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