Six Characters in Search of a Stage
chamber opera after the play by Pirandello
first performed 2014 mini-tour: Brighton Fringe, The Forge Camden, Chiswick & Kintbury
Duration 55 minutes
Six Characters enter an empty theatre determined to stage their drama - but first they need to convince the sceptical Director that their opera is really good. We are drawn into a tragic tale of incest, murder and suicide worthy of any grand opera.
But is it for real? If it actually happened - how can it be true? The Characters' mysterious story raises more questions than it can possibly answer...
Olivia Clarke (soprano) as the Daughter
Lindsay Bramley (mezzo-soprano) as the Mother
Sheridan Edward (tenor) as the Son and Madame Pace
Jon Stainsby (baritone) as the Director
Mark Beesley (bass) as the Father
with Joseph Shiner (clarinet)
Edward Lambert (piano)
directed by Ian Caddy
some audience feedback:
"Brilliant, poignant, funny and wonderful music."
"The performers were superb… it had great momentum… I uttered a wow at the energy of it."
"The music and singing were brilliant."
“The whole is a triumph…a wonderfully complex opera”
“… evocative music, wonderful singing…”
“ … the mix of drama and reality.”
"...wonderful voices" & "super clarinet playing..."
“I was gripped by the intensity and build-up of the unexpected ending.”
"An extraordinary piece..."
"Loved the baroque 'choreography'..."
"How lovely to hear such a professional troupe in a little village.”
“Enjoyed the drama, the comedy, the premise, the music - not my usual fayre!”
77% of respondents awarded the production 4 or 5 stars (70% described their attendance at opera as occasional)
Bite sized opera strikes gold ✩✩✩✩
St Andrew’s Church Hove East Sussex
Embarking on a new venture The Music Troupe of London play four venues with Ian Caddy directing Edward Lambert’s new version of “Six Characters in search of a stage”. A one act opera adapted from Luigi Pirandello’s play, they take in the Brighton Fringe Festival before dates in Chiswick and Camden.
While the Director is waiting in an empty theatre for the cast of a modern piece he is not happy with, the Characters suddenly appear. Insisting on telling their story this tragic tale of incest, murder and suicide unfolds. An excellent and talented cast of five + two musicians Edward Lambert (piano) and Joseph Shiner (clarinet) entertainingly bring this surreal and rather absurd story telling to life. In the absence of set, props and lighting visual imagery is created by the cast being clad in elegant Baroque costumes and the two young children being shown as ageless effigies.
An impressive debut with all the ingredients of a full length opera, arias, love scene, ensembles and a final tragedy all played out in just 55 minutes. This rich mix of interlocking characters quietly bring their theatrical performances to an intense climax of pain and despair. There is much to commend this lively production with in particular stand out performances from the powerful soprano Olivia Clarke (The Daughter) and baritone Jon Stainsby (The Director).
JILL LAWRIE on REMOTEGOAT.COM
Six Characters who found their stage
Ed Lambert's baroque opera premieres at Kintbury
The little band of clarinet and piano started up and in strode the Director (Jon Stainsby); modern, assertive, a man of the theatre, his clipped words reminiscent of John Adams, expecting to begin rehearsing a modern opera.
Instead, he is visited by six baroque Characters, who not only tell him their story, but perform scenes from it that he is drawn to direct.
In Edward Lambert's opera, based on Pirandello's play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, the Characters belong to the theatre of the 18th century and are not only appropriately costumed, but perform with stylised gestures to communicate their emotions. The music runs continuously through an overture and three scenes, drawing on inspiration from opera of all ages.
Lambert's music can sometimes seem minimalist, but it is always strongly directional and full of emotion; here the operatic references added to our delight and entertainment for, although the Characters' story is grim, the opera itself celebrates the joys of performance.
The premiere was given on Friday to an invited audience in Kintbury by a strong cast, both musically and dramatically.
Mark Beesley and Lindsay Bramley were communicative and touching in their predicament. Olivia Clarke was by turns innocent and provocative, her aria to her daughter, accompanied by solo clarinet, was delightful.
Sheridan Edward, having been po-faced as the Son, returned in flamboyant style and stunningly attired as Madame Pace, with a wonderfully florid aria, sung with assurance. Jon Stainsby was wholly convincing as the Director, with pleasing clarity of words.
The production was effectively directed by Ian Caddy, well known in Newbury and elsewhere as a baritone, but also an expert in Baroque performance.
This was a fabulous piece of theatre, which did seem to need a stage rather than a church, where the acoustic was unhelpfully resonant. In the notional pit, Joseph Shiner was eloquent in the virtuosic clarinet part and Edward Lambert made up for the missing second clarinet and strings as well as directing from the keyboard. I imagine that some variety of colours was lost in the economically necessary arrangement.
This was great entertainment, thought-provoking and not too long, presented to a very high standard.
JENNY BROOME in NEWBURY WEEKLY NEWS (08 May 2014
Premiere of intriguing new chamber opera by Edward Lambert
Six Characters in Search of a Stage ✩✩✩✩✩
Composer Edward Lambert, well known for his work at Covent Garden and his youth opera commissioned by W11 Opera ('All in the Mind' for the Britten Theatre 2004), has just had his puzzling new chamber opera 'Six Characters in Search of a Stage' premiered at Brighton Fringe by his very own Music Troupe of London with a cast including Jon Stainsby, Olivia Clarke, Sheridan Edward and Max Beesley.
I went along to St Andrews Church by the Sea, Hove on 4 May 2014 intrigued to unravel the mystery and experience his modernist / post-modernist score realised. Adapted from Pirandello's play of 1921, acclaimed as a surrealist masterpiece at the time, the chamber opera opens with the Director (stalwartly enacted and sung by Jon Stainsby) arriving on the stage of an empty theatre waiting for the cast of a modern play he doesn't really understand, to turn up for first rehearsal. 'Where is everyone? Why must I direct these modern works where nobody understands a thing?' he bemoans to the intrepid accompaniment of Lambert (piano)and quirky clarinet line above from the young, but established recitalist Joseph Shiner.
Suddenly the Six Character appear on stage in baroque period costume and insist on telling the Director their real story, which is far more shatteringly truthful than mere drama. The director is convinced they've come to the wrong theatre, but the Father of the family group proclaims:' We're searching, searching for a stage, if you please we would show you our drama', which the 'Six Characters' proceed to do, reenacting their family's sad tale of recent incest, rape, murder and suicide duly set to music by Lambert. A complicated storyline unfolds with particularly strong input from soprano Olivia Clarke soaring up to ecstatic top notes at dramatic point throughout the work. Born after the Father and Mother had separated (the mother having moved away with her lover) but the legitimate daughter of her original parents, the Daughter, lively and attractive, later falls into the hands of brothel keeper Madame Pace (well sung by tenor Sheridan Edward) who misuses the young girl unbeknown to her mother. There ensue scenes of unintended consequences and anguish towards the climax of the opera, when the Father visits the brothel, inadvertently accosting his own daughter, at which point her mother suddenly appears from the wings.
This short opera (55 minutes) succeeds in holding the attention of the audience due to its fast pace, stylish production by Director Ian Caddy, who also introduces baroque gestures to add impact on stage, and Lambert's strikingly lively score. When I had a few words with Edward Lambert after the performance, he described his style in this work as 'modernist/post modernist, influenced by the operas of John Adams, with like Adams, rhythms that keep changing. 'He had built the work on 'consonancies' and dissonant harmonies', flowing across each other so they pass, putting themselves on the same spectrum so that the music can flow one idea to another'. I noted flowing Debussy–like passages in the accompaniment during interludes in the drama, but Lambert alluded to the fact that he felt more of an affinity to Ligeti in this work. In Act Three, an instrumental interlude leads to an anguished vocal quartet as the Daughter's baby girl (a puppet character) plays in the garden with tragic results. She drowns in the fountain swiftly followed by the sound of a single shot, as the young son of the Mother and her deceased lover perishes too.
At which point the rest of the 'Six Characters' disappear from the stage so the 'Director' is left as at the outset of the opera asking 'where is my cast? I've lost a whole rehearsal over this performance', not realising the final tragedy was re-enacted 'for real'.
The 'surreal' nature of the whole work (and the original play it echoes) inevitably leaves the audience as perplexed as the 'Director' on stage but the performance was well received and the musical experience memorable, and intriguing too.' The vocal parts aren't easy to sing' exclaimed Mark Beesley (Father ) to me afterwards. I noted the awkward angular leaps in the vocal line at high points in the drama, the ecstatic arias, especially from the Daughter, amidst sombre notes on bass clarinet.
Originally scored for 2 clarinets, viola, cello and piano, Lambert is hoping to stage a production with full ensemble accompaniment at a future date. I actually felt the premiere version Brighton Fringe for solo clarinet (doubling bass and Eb clarinets) and piano, worked particularly well and afforded a marvellously intrepid opportunity to solo clarinet Joseph Shiner whose lyrical line shone quirkily throughout as he raced and arpeggioed his way through the score with aplomb.
JILL BARLOW on Planet Hugill 26/05/2014