The Adelaide Festival
Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until 15 Mar 2020

Review by Fran Edwards

I did not see the film from which this opera springs, so I am unable to make comparisons. I come to this story with no preconceptions. The music is by Missy Mazzoli, known for her piece “Song from the Uproar”, with again Royce Vavrek writing the libretto. Their collaboration is again successful, but I am unsure of the story. This performance fails to have the uplifting moments I expect from opera and I suspect the misogynistic story and the lack of rememberable tunes is to blame.

However, there are plenty of things to enjoy. Firstly, the set, tall, towering columns that change with the projected lights and rotate to present a church, a home, a hospital, an oil rig and the cliffs – so clever. Minimal use of set pieces in the rotations enabled smooth changes and a constantly changing backdrop. Kudos to designer Soutra Brodie, lighting designer Richard Howell, projection designer Will Duke and sound designer Jon Nicholls; their joint efforts have produced a spectacular effect.

The cast are also remarkable, especially Sydney Mancasola as Bess. Her voice is amazing, and the depth of emotion was palpable. There were also very fine performances by Duncan Rock as her love interest Jan and Wallis Giunta as her sister-in-law Dodo. The supporting cast was solid providing some great performances: Orla Boylan as the mother, Freddie Tong as the strict and overbearing Councilman, and Elgan Llyr Thomas as the sympathetic Dr Richardson. Even the minor roles of Byron Jackson, as Terry, Jan’s work mate; and the sailors, Francis Church and David Lynn, complete the high standard.

The music is played by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and is of a very high standard, building the tension in places and the score has some difficult pieces. This music does in some ways sound dated but that does not detract from the whole. Basically, although I appreciate the standard and the fine performances this is too depressing to be my cup of tea.