Prima Donna

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Prima Donna

Postby Barry » Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:18 pm

The Palace theatre, Manchester, 14th July 2009

I can't recall making eye contact with a living opera composer before, and I'm not sure whether enthusiastically hugging a descendent of Verdi's last week actually counts. But tonight I was just behind Rufus Wainwright, at the third performance of his opera Prima Donna. I'm sort of new to the Rufus obessession - most of the audience clearly were not. My main reason for being there tonight was for the brilliant Janis Kelly - I've never not seen here be less than astonishing, making sense of every note of music, and acting with such conviction and intensity. I still remember her Violetta, which shocked and excited me. She is stunningly beautiful and looks good in everything I have seen her in, and i'm happy to say, from my few meetings with her, that she is a gorgeous friendly witty lady, and not the Prima Donna that she was playing tonight. Is anyone the prima donna these days. Most people I know involved with opera or ballet are so down to earth concnetrating on getting the work right rather than using ego to cover any failings. And actually the Prima Donna didn't really behave outrageously or badly or tempermentally or anything really. LIke all the characters she drifted around, and treated the notion of performing as a big deal but not in any flamboyant way. This did have a thin story, and the opera references, well I can't make up my mind whether they were clever or very heavy handed. Certainly the twist on Madam Butterfly raised a huge laugh of recognition at probably the wrong moment. Tosca was referred to as was mimi, but generally it was free of too many overt references. Hints in some of the musical phrasing.
Only a cast of six, which included two annoying silent characters - a camp valet. Terrible. And the performer, a well known dancer, was certainly wasted.
The design, well there was a lot of it, a lot. Some very striking dazzling images, and so epic in scale, and it was satisfying towards the last few scenes when all the different images started to overlap, reflecting the prima donna's state of mind. But there was a lot of it, and it fidgted non stop, and soem just seemed so unnecessary. A nice moment at the end when the huge sloping garret style windows turned, and Regina stepped out, and we all anticpated Tosca. We saw the back of the set and all the mechanics, and rather than the Tosca action, Regina was suddenly just on a stage, alone. The lighting veered from excessively vulgar in being full red, or full whatever, to some incredibly subtle and beautiful firework effects seen through the frosted glass.
And the music, well some of it was very lush, but I never got swept along, or driven as Puccini drives you to the climaxes.There was a lot of it, like the scenery, but it flowed rather than excited. Variations of pace were defintiely needed - like much of the staging that included much wandering rather than purposeful striding. Some incredible sounds, but a lot of percussive tricks that jarred. Some of it simply sounded like duff notes.
Some scenes just didn't work, and it could easily lose fifteen minutes, but I did enjoy the whole experience, and was ultimately ver y moved, probably thanks to Janis. Whatever it was an event. There will be work done on this to fine tune it but it was certainly something, and I was glad to have seen it. Thanks Ian and Gwyn.
And seeing Rufus, being outrageous in pink jacket, top hat, and cane, well like the evening, we weren't cheated of spectacle.
But oh why do I hate audiences so much. Maybe I should go with other people more often so I don't have to listen to totally inane conversations, and stuff that is just wrong. Tonight the gay mafiosa and festival mafiosa and trendies and Rufus groupies were out in force....fine if it gets them into a theatre, but crikey there were some outfits. So many people there for reasons not to do with the show. I think that is what winds me up - and it does.
The piece took place on Bastille Day - what day is it today?
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