Classic opera makes thrilling evening

Tales of Hoffmann, Mid Wales Opera, Theatre Royal, Bury, September 26Outside metropolitan centres and their established opera houses are a number of energetic and creative companies dedicated to achieving the highest artistic standards that their often insecure funding permits.

Tales of Hoffmann, Mid Wales Opera, Theatre Royal, Bury, September 26

Outside metropolitan centres and their established opera houses are a number of energetic and creative companies dedicated to achieving the highest artistic standards that their often insecure funding permits. In addition they fulfil the vital, indeed noble, roles of spotting and developing young, home-grown talent and of taking opera to the smaller towns and to those who might otherwise be dissuaded by expense, journey or other factors.

It was sad to see several empty seats but those present enjoyed an intelligent and effective production with good singing and musicianship.

The central character is the writer Hoffmann, torn between love, alcohol and art. Christopher Steele has a good voice with plenty of power but he seemed to be at full throttle more often than appeared necessary. More shading and subtlety would have enhanced his reading. Catherine May did well with the difficult part of Olympia and succeeded in melding the high runs with the robotic movements of the mechanical doll. Dean Robinson was full-toned in his variety of roles and Carolyn Dobbin a particularly engaging Muse.


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There was pleasure in the character-roles, particularly from Benjamin Segal as the doll-maker and, in the collapse of his bank and a worthless cheque, a wry reminder that banking difficulties are not entirely new.

Some of the most impressive singing was heard in the ensembles of Act 2, particularly as Antonia, urged on by her mother and Miracle embarks on her final, fatal song. This was thrilling stuff, more than making up for some sticky moments earlier on.

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Performing a full length romantic opera is hard work for any orchestra, let alone the single instrumentalists of the Mid Wales Opera Chamber Orchestra. They are to be congratulated for their skill and stamina, although the efficient Keith Darlington sometimes needed to find a little more restraint and refinement.

Gareth Jones

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