Community opera is spectacular success at St Albans Abbey

PUBLISHED: 11:18 28 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

Georgina Thomas and Peter Sequeira starred as the Saint's children in Alban

Georgina Thomas and Peter Sequeira starred as the Saint's children in Alban

JUST one word sums up last week s premiere of the new community opera Alban in St Albans Abbey and that is spectacular. In all ways, dramatically, musically and even emotionally, the show with a cast of more than 100 drawn from across the St Albans dioces

JUST one word sums up last week's premiere of the new community opera Alban in St Albans Abbey and that is spectacular.

In all ways, dramatically, musically and even emotionally, the show with a cast of more than 100 drawn from across the St Albans diocese must be regarded as an outstanding achievement.

Composer Tom Wiggall had produced music which was demanding of the orchestra but simple enough to make less demands on the singers who were largely drawn from the community.

And the words by John Mole spun an excellent and moving story of the days leading up to the execution of Alban.

The work, specially commissioned by the St Albans Cathedral Music Trust, saw tenor Philip Salmon and his wife soprano Dominique Thiébaud in the roles of Alban and his wife Claudia. Between them they produced an emotionally-charged performance which helped to elevate the entire event to a high level of excellence.

Bass-baritone Paul Sheehan as the priest whom Alban protected also gave a first-class performance in the demanding role.

And it was good to see local bass Des Turner back in action locally as the Governor of Verulamium.

Mezzo soprano Louise Mott gave one of the most dramatic performances of the show as Marcella, the hard-nosed wife of the governor, while Ellie White, also a mezzo soprano, was impressive as Claudia's friend Julia.

Teenagers Georgina Thomas and Peter Sequeira as Alban's children Melissa and Gaius also gave fine performances.

While the intimate family situations were excellently handled by director Beckie Mills it was the way she treated the huge crowd scenes which I found most impressive. One of the best parts was that the people appeared "real" mainly because so many of the faces were familiar.

At every level the production was a tremendous success with excellent costumes, first-class lighting and innovative, simple scenery.

And David Ireson, who conducted the extremely-good small orchestra, must take a large slice of the credit for the effectiveness of the production because of his excellent interpretation of the music.

Although not the first community musical event to be staged in St Albans Abbey over the years, Alban must surely go down as the finest to date and a credit to all those involved. It would be a tragedy if it was not performed again in the future.

JOHN MANNING


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