Edinburgh Studio Opera’s King Arthur, Canongate Kirk, Review
The performers had made their dramatic entrance when the evening’s director, the impressively voiced Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, was placing us way back to the early years of the reign of Dutch protestants William and Mary - following the removal of Roman Catholic James II. What we were about to see unfold was a restoration spectacular. There were to be five parts each relevant to our country today. Indeed the altar and greater pulpit were draped in Union Jacks.
The Orchestra of eleven were over to our right. Maestro Michael Bawtree was at the harpsichord; but it was his conductors arms we saw from a distance as he took control over players and singers.
The first Interlude assured us of the greatness of Britain’s Empire. For whilst the music was Purcell the words were Dryden. The second was Darkness into Light and the third The British Weather. Very impressively individuals sung solos or duets interspersed by the chorus of all seventeen singers. Throughout the evening just about every singer was giving us a solo or being part of a duet, some more than once. And for some a change of costume added to the fun - even the bawdy as clothes were coming off when shepherd Mr Babbington-Tambling and Miss Robathan his lover were up to no good. Hugh Hillyard-Parker in the guise of Winter Frost was giving us his bass voice from the lesser pulpit.
After the interval the interludes were titled Of Church and Public House where hymn books were to be seen, and finally Fairest Isle. I was particularly impressed with Sam Jenkins’ tenor I call you all to Woden’s Hall. And who could not be impressed with Angela Estrada’s soprano dolled up in an outfit as Bellona, the spirit of War.
Every performer knew what they were about and how important, even when not the focus of attention, their posture and facial expression. Arrivals and departures along the aisle were beautifully confident and without arrogance. The Orchestra was under Michael Bawtree’s considered control and were a delight with Henry Purcell’s enlivening music. It really was a great evening of serious fun and music - meticulously directed.
Event: performance reviewed Wednesday 27 February 2013 at 7.30pm. Also on Friday 1 March 2013 at 7.30pm and Saturday 2 March 2013 at 7.30pm.