Printable CopySAUL
The Adelaide Festival
Adelaide Festival Theatre
Until 09 Mar 2017

Review by Tony Busch

What a coup to have secured this amazing production for the Adelaide Festival.

Barry Kosky’s production is a winner on every front. Concept, direction, costumes, setting and performances all mesh together in an aural and visual feast similar to the extravagant banquet at the start of the oratorio.

Kosky is master of both the grand gesture and the small detail and the production is alive with deft theatrical touches.

Christopher Purves gives a riveting performance in the title role. Possessed of a powerful and articulate voice he dominated the stage and his portrait of a jealous king driven to madness is inspired. Christopher Lowrey’s David is fittingly noble. His agile counter-tenor is an amazing instrument which he controls to great effect, particularly in legato passages.

Mary Bevan’s lustrous soprano is just as effective in the role of Merab, Saul’s elder daughter. She is particularly effective when faced with the prospect of marrying commoner, David. Taryn Fiebig is Michal, Saul’s younger daughter and the eventual wife of David. Again, gorgeous vocal control and admirable acting. Both ladies delivered performances of great clarity and focus.

Adrian Strooper imbued Jonathan with a noble dignity, Stuart Jackson almost steals the show as the High Priest and Kanen Breen carries off the Witch of Endor in fine fashion in a particularly fetching costume.

Indeed set and costume design by Katrin Lea Tag is brilliant on every level, providing amazing flexibility in staging and delivering some wonderful surprises.

Of course, the chorus of State Opera is again triumphant under the guidance of Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor Brett Weymark, exhibiting superb control and precision singing even when having to perform some demanding choreography.

Otto Pichler has further enriched this sumptuous production with amazing choreography danced by a superb corps of six.

But a special bouquet must go to conductor Erin Helyard who milks every nuance from a pared down Adelaide Symphony in superb form.

Saul is nothing short of a triumph and we are fortunate indeed to be able to experience it.