Monday, November 5, 2018

Lorelei struts its style in a pertinent and devastatingly entertaining world premiere by Victorian Opera: Herald Sun Review

Published in print in in edited form in Melbourne's Herald Sun, 6th November, 2108.

No stone seems left unturned in Lorelei, a lush new work from Victorian Opera that explores righting wrongs and rewriting roles women were born to play. Conceived by soprano Ali McGregor, female artists and creatives feature prominently in its inventive look at the mythical siren Lorelei, who lured sailors to their death on the Rhine by her beauty.

Dimity Shepherd, Antoinette Halloran and Ali McGregor
Facilitated by director Sarah Giles’ thought-provoking staging, the results are as pertinent as they are devastatingly entertaining. Such is its strength that one might get the sense women never before have commanded so candid a platform - one of 75 coruscating minutes.

Without pussyfooting around, Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff’s witty and rhyming libretto is modern, audacious and en pointe. Coined an operatic cabaret, it sits comfily on a smorgasbord of musical styles whipped into an expressive and easy listening score by composer Julian Langdon. Conductor Phoebe Briggs did a sterling job on opening night in showing its energy, leading 12 musicians who produced a richness of texture belying their number.

Starting as three statuesque beauties, mezzo Dimity Shepherd and sopranos Antoinette Halloran and McGregor identify themselves as sirens honouring the memory of Lorelei. There’s no escape for the audience who learn they are their next victim. But the plucky trio have a change of heart as they come to realise it is society that shoehorned them into where they are.

Camaraderie is strong, as is the vocal mix between the plush-voiced, highly individualised trio.

Especially compelling is how the power, burden and abuse of their beauty are reflected in costume designer Marg Horwell’s wildly exaggerated haute couture. Movement is restricted in reams of fabric but is increased the more layers they shed as they question their position. And it couldn’t be coincidental that Horwell’s three-roomed linear set has an inkling of window prostitution to it in which each siren is constrained by its dimensions under Paul Jackson’s colourful lighting.

After all the sirens’ perceived progress as women is made, a reality check comes crashing through in a poignant finale. Redressed, but ever so slightly less than originally, it’s a reminder that a woman’s role is still far from rewritten.

Victorian Opera
Merlyn Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse
Until 10th November, 2018


Production Photos: Pia Johnson 

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