This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub.
A double-bill of Monteverdi and Handel comprises Opera Briefs, which is presented by The Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM), in collaboration with The Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art. Focussing on love in opera and choosing lesser performed pieces, Monteverdi’s Tirsi e Clori is first, which offers a mini-showcase of talent and introduces two of the characters that provided the inspiration for the next piece. This leads on to Handel’s comic cantata, composed almost a century later, Clori, Tirsi e Fileno, a lengthier piece lasting approximately 50 minutes. The theme of love and its complexities is a frequent subject in opera and these two pieces are excellent examples of the humour and heat that troubles a yearning heart. Fickleness, deceit, and outright bitchiness are all elements that bring these well aged tales alive through the vocal prowess of the performers (Florence Khei Kuan Chong, Eoin Conway, Philip Keegan, Clodagh Kinsella, Peter Manning, Ruth Murphy, Dana Tanase, Hannah Tryanor). Both pieces are accompanied by the exquisite RIAM Baroque Ensemble, conducted by David Adams, without whom there would simply be no show.
A simple but hugely evocative set (Maree Kearns) nods to the traditional with faux marble, gilded doorways, and ornate foliage all adding to the drama of the performance. Kearns’ costumes also keep inline while giving a subtle wink to modernity. Lighting (Kevin Smith) is equally suggestive and plays with the tone and mood of both pieces. Overall, Opera Briefs establishes the next generation of talent in Ireland and is testament to the training and skills of the performers, musicians, and production team.
The brevity of this performance, coming in at just over 60 minutes, means that it will appeal to opera aficionados and novices alike. For those who think they’d like to sample some opera without committing to a full performance they won’t go far wrong with Opera Briefs. Those with an already awakened passion will certainly have their appetites whetted and be left longing for more, not unlike Tirsi and Fileno.
Director: Conor Hanratty
Conductor: David Adams
Runs until 2 April 2016 @ Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Image: courtesy of Project Arts Centre
Sung in Italian with English surtitles.