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Monday, 25 February 2019 11:24

Guildford Dragon News review

Stage Dragon: Mansfield Park – Opera South

By L A Cooper

You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of an operatic rendition of Mansfield Park. But Opera South brings together sheer youthful angst, and classic outrageous drama seamlessly in their latest production showing at Haslemere Hall.

Based on Austen’s classic novel, the opera follows Fanny Price and the Bertram family as their lives are jolted into action by the flirtatious, manipulative Crawfords. Over the course of an hour and a half, you’re hurtling along so quickly you’ll think you’re on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride. And you won’t want to get off.

Jonathan Dove’s composition is brought to life by a two-man, one piano ensemble, that somehow, partnered with the diverse harmonies, makes you forget you’re not listening to a 30-piece orchestra. Under the direction of James Hurley, the cast relay the fun, colourful awakening of Austen’s 20-somethings, bounding about society looking for matches.

Fanny, played by Kamilla Dunstan, may seem overshadowed (I forgot about her on more than one occasion), but her on-stage presence as Austen’s protagonist was faithfully observant, and her voice mirrored the quiet power and influence Fanny has on the Bertram family.

And she didn’t stand alone. James Corrigan, playing Fanny’s amour, Edmund Bertram, had the audience so enraptured at one stage, you could hear the rustle of paper in his hand from the back stalls. Simon Gfeller as the jilted Mr Rushworth may have oozed energy, but his heartbreak could melt the hardest of hearts, while April Frederick’s Mary Crawford was the unabashed prima donna, hitting notes so high it made me wince.

Mansfield Park’s artistic direction will trick you into thinking you’re seeing a lot more than you are. As immersive and innovative as it is striking, the sharp, quick choreography embodies every love triangle, suitor and will-they-won’t-they storyline. When the cast hops on a make-shift buggy (or barouche, if we’re to play into Julia Bertram's penchant) and make for Sotherton, the stage is flooded with golden hour-esque lighting. So convincing, in fact, you’ll wish you were sitting outside, Pimm’s in hand.

And yes, the cast chimes “Fanny Price” so many times in the first ten minutes you’ll want to take a shot every time you hear her name. But in the story’s final throws, we’re treated to a harmony so strong it requires no other instrument. The stage quietens, and as Fanny turns and realises her love is requited after all, an array of notes sing out so sweetly it gave me butterflies.

Sure: the audience is about as diverse as your local Waitrose shoppers on a Tuesday afternoon. But with Hurley’s palpable energy and innovation, it’s difficult to understand why. Enough dynamism and sexual conflict to appeal to the Hair generation, a letter sequence to compete with Phantom’s Notes/Prima Donna, and a ten-part cast who’ll either convert you or [theatrically] die trying, Opera South prove that opera is open to the masses.

 
See original article at The Guildford Dragon News

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