The opera tells the story of a successful advertising executive, Harry Joy, who lived on the outskirts of a provincial town in Australia in the 1980s. It started at a surprise party that colleagues have put on for his twentieth anniversary of being in business. Within minutes Harry was on the floor with a heart attack and a near-death experience. We got to know his wife and young adult children as he convalesced but started to act bizarrely. He realised he had not previously noticed the real life of his family and work colleagues going on around him - some of it scandalous. It was an understandable story in today’s world.
The Australian baritone, Peter Coleman-Wright, played the advertising executive and had by far the largest part. His performance was so good because he was real, and just like a former business colleague I knew a long time ago. His wife Betty, played by Merlyn Quaife, son David, played by David Corcoran and daughter Lucy, played by Taryn Fiebig came across as a cohesive, if wacky, family. His wife’s lover, Johnny, played by Kanen Breen and Alex his colleague and friend, played by Barry Ryan, both grated with me but for good purpose.
After a call to an escort agency arrived Honey B, played very convincingly by Lorina Gore. There was arrest by police officers with strong Australian accents, confusion in an asylum and mayhem at a board meeting of sixteen senior advertising executives. All was aided very considerably by a backdrop of black walls with perhaps two thousand light bulbs that were able to depict by electronic switching the appropriate scene. Very clever.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra played hard and fast in the pit and all I could see was the back of the head of the conductor, Elgar Howarth. He had conducted the Opera’s first performance at the Sydney Opera House on 12 March 2010. The two performances at our International Festival were dedicated to the late Richard Hickox, who before his death was the great champion and leader in the conception of Bliss, as Music Director of Opera Australia.
Event: Thursday 2 September , 7.15pm. Also performed on Saturday 4 September.