Carnival is a début opera by Music alumni Ed Denham which was premièred by Opsoc at the Djanogly Recital Hall, directed by Andy Routledge. The opera is in three acts and is based upon Aphra Behn’s play ‘The Rover.’ Set in Naples, it frames itself on the extravagance of the Venetian Carnival.
An enticing combination of seriousness and humour, the plot revolves around the intertwining love stories of the main characters and the complexity that these love stories involve. Ed Denham explained that the strength of the characters and the purity of the emotions immediately drew him to transform Behn’s play into this opera; he has written both the libretto and music for this opera. The polarity of the emotions within the text was communicated successfully to the audience through a combination of careful use of music and words.
The music successfully supported the libretto and communicated the atmosphere and emotions of the opera to the audience. Jazz-style piano accompaniment was provided by the répétiteur Dan Parr evoking the red-light district and exciting, fast-paced music material accompanied two characters being chased around the stage, the music always playing a crucial role in evoking the scenes.
One moment which stands out in particular is the love-duet between the characters Wimore (Jack Scott-Walker) and Angelica (Mia Bekvalac). Blending traditional harmonies whilst using suspensions to periodically heighten and resolve tension ultimately conveyed a convincing level of emotional sensitivity in the audience. Interestingly the use of unaccompanied solo vocals by several of the characters provided musical variety, helping to retain the interest of the audience but importantly it allowed the audience to focus on the words of the libretto and their meaning.
The vocal combinations of duets, trios and even ranging to a sextet provided an opportunity for Ed Denham to make use of overlapping vocal entries to increase the pace of the action, as characters try to argue their point over each other. The only disadvantage to the writing of the sextet was that it inevitably meant that individual sentences being performed by the vocalists were not easily distinguishable by the audience; nevertheless it was successful in its portrayal of the anger and distress of the characters. The combination of all the vocal performers in the chorus sections created a strong and impressive sound, adding to the life of the performance.
The acting and comedy elements of the opera were played excellently by all characters involved especially the trouser-role characters (women performing as male characters). Antonio (Imogen Davis) and Blunt (David Brooks) provided the majority of the humour through excellent acting and brought their characters to light, much to the amusement of the audience. In particular, the costume worn by Blunt after he is conned into losing his clothes (which included wearing Union Jack shorts) created much laughter in the audience and contrasted with the serious aspects of the plot!
Overall, this début opera was performed excellently from both the musical side and the acting skills of all the cast. The cast have been successful in bringing to life the interesting and musically gripping work which Ed Denham has created. The vigorous applause of the audience at the conclusion of the opera certainly shows that this was also the general consensus of those watching this performance!