St Albans Chamber Opera doubles up

OVER the many years that I have watched performances by St Albans Chamber Opera I cannot remember a single failure.

Be they major productions at the Abbey Theatre or smaller ones at The Maltings Theatre or other locations, they have all been thoroughly enjoyable.

Yet last week’s double bill at The Maltings must rate as one of the most enjoyable yet.

Featuring many of the company’s regular singers, the two one-act operas, Oberon’s Birthday and Trial by Jury, were an absolute delight.

The first, scenes from Purcell’s Fairy Queen in a party setting, saw baritone Des Turner in the role of Oberon and Jenna Clemence as his wife with Alex McPhee singing the part of the maid who has caught Oberon’s lustful eye.

Add to them alto Rebecca Muhley, Alan French as a drunken poet and a dozen or so other regular company members and the cast was compete.

Peter Kestner’s delightful production was complemented by excellent music from violinist Vicky Moran, cellist Michael Wigram and keyboard player Alex Wells.

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Then came Gilbert and Sullivan’s gem, Trial by Jury.

This delightful send-up of the Victorian judicial system – and all its faults – was probably the most amusing production of the show I have ever seen.

Alan French as the Judge gave a really tremendous performance, full of humour and vigour, and he was fully matched by Warren Albers as the defendant, Des Turner as the court usher and Philip Lawford as counsel for the plaintiff, all of whom were well supported by the members of the jury and friends of the plaintiff.

But in many ways it was Alex McPhee who really impressed as the plaintiff herself. The role marked her third appearance in a key role with the company and was by far her most impressive. As a singer she is developing fast and one can only look forward to her next appearance with the company.

Producer Paula Chitty demonstrated how with minimal resources but good and enthusiastic performers, a really impressive show can be presented.

The pity of the whole evening was that the show ran for only two evenings. This was an event which deserved a much wider audience.