Swansea City Opera's triumphant return to Theatre Severn

Lakmé

Swansea City Opera/Dinas  Abertawe

Theatre Severn

3rd March 2017

The greatest thing one notices at an Opera performance in Shrewsbury is the huge diversity of people that make up the audience. Could this be because of the town’s incredibly  eclectic,  music scene? It might be; however whatever the reason, theatre goers tonight were treated to the wonderful music of Léo Delibes and the seldom performed Opera Lakme.

The narrative is relatively straightforward, almost in a parallel to Romeo and Juliet it is a tale of forbidden love, of occupation and prejudice, the British Raj and a lovers triste that can only ever end in tears. Gerald our hero, was slightly wiser than Romeo and kept the death count cleverly down to one as he cheats death,  but his poor Lakme dies after digesting some deadly poison from a flower. Had the Father not been so closed minded and judgmental, Lakme could have been alive and happily married. Alas!

The question it raises about army occupations of foreign lands to us in this current time, seems innocuous now tempers have settled and we have a better understanding of what we did back then. Who now wouldn’t question Britain’s behaviour in the Raj? Or any other unlawful occupation that was made in the great cultural leap forward that we took off the backs of others.

Lakme was first performed in 1883 a full 84 years after the French revolution and maybe Délibes thought his voice on the issue of Immoral/Moral occupations should be heard. Seeing how one hundred and fifty years later we are still performing his material he maybe as right now as he was then!

So, to the players themselves.  Lakme was sung by Hannah Sawle and the strength and beauty of her voice is a gift as precious as porcelain but as robust as steel. That girl has great power she also shows understanding  of the music and timing that one would not find tighter anywhere. She sang the part as Fonteyne would have danced Swan Lake.  She made it her own and we all collectively fell in love.

When Lakme and her maid Mallika sing the most famous song of the show, The Flower Duet (now famous for promoting some Bank or other on the TV) one was present to a sound of such beauty .The live orchestra and the voices twizzled and entwined together and the match was breathtakingly spectacular.

Mallika sung by Katerzyna Balejeko,  was the perfect maid for Lakme and the relationship status was happily blurred due to their love for each other’s company. Their friendship and joy of the beauty around them is so sweetly delivered in the Flower Duet.

However The Bell Song sung by Lakme in the market square was spectacular. Reaching notes that others singers could only dream of Ms. Sawle held the audience in the palm of her hand as her vocal acrobatics were so utterly enchanting.

Today Lakme’s old fashioned Father may be seen as a prejudiced and closed man, he is unaware that his daughter can only ever be happy with the love she has found. Given the value of such a commodity her Father Nilakantha, sung so powerfully by Håkon Vramsmo, decides the best thing he can do, to keep his daughter’s virtue intact is to stab Gerald. I am sure that in 1883 the loyalty would have probably have been with the Father who is trying to keep his daughter safe. Today I am not so sure! So villain or saint Nilakanatha’s contribution is vital to the story and raises such fascinating issues of culture and change.

Swansea City Opera pride themselves with using local choirs and employing them in the busy scenes. Tonight’s scene and choral singers were provided by Temponilla and the Haverfordwest Operatic Society. They too fulfilled their rolés with a consummate professionalism that is in fact the trademark for this,  one of our nearest full time Opera Companies. If anyone has ever been hassled in an African or Indian street market by the constant gaggle of vendors, one would see they captured that atmosphere and brought it to the stage in Theatre Severn to share with us all. They got that so right..

The Swansea City Opera Orchestra played so strongly from the pit and the relationship between notes they produced and voices was quite spectacular. Although backing tracks can be so clearly produced they have worked their way into some company’s M.O.;  but the clarity and freshness of newly produced notes is inimitable , live music is heardin the heart and in the soul as well as through the ears.

One hopes this wonderfully productive relationship between Orchestra and singers continues to motivate S.C.O. and then residents of Shrewsbury and further afield can be sure that there will be a seal of quality in whatever this highly skilful company can produce next.

This Is A Four Star Review

Owen J.Lewis

Section:

Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

Read More from Owen Lewis