A dazzling and though-provoking performance by OpSoc at the Lakeside Arts Centre
Ed Denham is a former student of the University of Nottingham, who now studies with Geoff Hanan and Howard Skempton at Birmingham Conservatoire. A commission from the Lakeside Arts Centre and the university’s OpSoc gave him just two months to write a three act opera over forty-five minutes with a piano accompaniment. The resulting work – Carnival – was performed on Saturday under the direction of Andy Routledge.
In what is an exceptionally brave attempt to fit a complex plot into a very short span of time, the story centers around three Englishmen searching for a remedy for their various vices on a holiday to Naples, whether it be food, beer or women.
In a plot filled with dramatic irony and ghastly characters getting their deserved comeuppance the audience enjoyed an opera that encompassed all the best parts of Shakespeare and Mozart, with euphonious nods at Britten and Whitacre.
The cast (especially the women) and chorus were commendable for the duration. A special mention must go to David Brooks who positively relished his role as the fool Blunt, who at one point gets stripped almost entirely naked. A brave man indeed.
The solo violin part at the work’s conclusion provided a semi-incidental, melancholy conclusion to the opera as the lights went down on Mia Bekvalec’s ‘Angelica’, who was superb throughout, in a production that runs far deeper than a standard comedy.
At times the Vaudeville feel of the solo piano part become slightly tired, and the lack of more virtuosic passages were slight disappointments. However, Denham’s plans for an orchestrated version, and his clear desire to be very lyrical in his writing quite easily puts paid to these minor qualms.
Perhaps we can’t all be as strikingly original as Mozart, but as long as one’s messages or feelings are put across in an effective way, which this opera delivers in abundance both in presentation and composition, Denham can be satisfied that he has created something which will entertain and provide thoughtful discourse.