Director: by James Oldham / Conductor: Thomas Payne / Producer: Ed Denham
Bastien: Matthew Durkan / Bastienne: Sophie Pullen / Colas: Luke Deane
Bearing in mind Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 12 years of age when he wrote Bastien und Bastienne, it makes one wonder what he bore witness to as a child. And I don’t think he’d imagined it performed in a draughty nightclub with a 16 piece orchestra, hyper sparse set decoration and even less seating – as greeted those who ventured to see Waste Paper Opera’s interpretation.
With the audience still ordering drinks, possibly to warm them up, and inspecting the deconstructed pastoral field (sheep looked akin to a gift a proud child would bring home to their mother at Easter) the show started, the the choir singing a round of “Mozart!”, as if to wake the performers from their slumber.
Sitting in a battered Chesterfield and with KISS style face-paint and knitted jumper, Bastienne opened the show crying her heart out like many single woman in a confusing relationship. “I can’t trust you!” Yes, you and a million other women on a wet Wednesday night my love. I was mildly surprised as the libretto was sung in English, and had to suspend my disbelief at the surroundings and absorb the sounds and arias.
The introduction of Colas, the quack magician, was great; he was vile. Imagine post puberty Harry Potter on an acid trip and you’re half way there. His bizarre Joker-with-ADD antics were amusing, but his choice line? – “He sounds like a bit of a dick massively” – irritating in equal measure.
Bastienne’s ongoing complaints and wailing to Colas were then halted by his stomping off stage and through the exit. Was this part of the act? Was this a grand revolt by the actor? Had he had enough?
Afraid not, he was now consoling Bastien, a wonderful baritone who’s rich timbre was rather irritatingly drowned by the mechanics of the club’s air conditioning and the flashing lights.
Colas and Bastien sat bitching at life’s woes, like the annoying drunk guys at end of a night out who will solve all your problems, Colas’ soliloquy was akin to said drunk dude reciting a dream. This was beginning to feel like an opera based on ‘The Curious Incident of The Dog in Night Time’.
Eventually, after much anguished pulling of their knitted grey jumpers, the two lovers were reunited. And it was all thanks to Colas’ Mysterious art, which he reminded us of ad nauseam.
Musically and vocally, Waste Paper Opera Company were on point; their production was beautiful, melodic and whimsically Mozart. The baritone and soprano were excellent, with the open environment lending itself well to Bastien’s low and Bastienne’s high notes, her solo aria being particularly lovely.
Conductor Thomas Payne kept his orchestra tidy and disciplined, and sat in black being inconspicuously elegant amongst the crazed goings on.
But I’m too much of a lover of the grandee to have enjoyed the sparse set design. Although I can appreciate deconstruction, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
And as for the nightclub setting; I couldn’t help feel it wasn’t for this particular knackered post-work adult, one whose days of running after top hated men in strobe lit clubs are certainly over.
I wonder what Wolfgang would have made of it all?
**Birmingham Review issues it’s apologies to Matthew Durkan, who was referenced as a ‘tenor’ in the original review. For more on Matthew Durkan, visit www.matthewdurkan.co.uk**
For more on Waste Paper Opera Company, visit http://www.wpoc.co.uk
For more on the Frontiers Festival, visit http://www.frontiersmusic.org
For further listings from The Rainbow, visit http://www.therainbowvenues.co.uk