Korngold’s Silent Serenade at the Glenn Gould School

Joel Ivany

Joel Ivany

Korngold’s Silent Serenade is, to put it mildly, odd.  The plot could have been taken from Dario Fo and the only possible excuse for the schmaltzy music is that Korngold initiated many of the saccharine clichés he relies on.  Last night the students of the Glenn Gould School under the direction of Joel Ivany and the musical leadership of Pieter Tiefenbach bravely tried to rescue it from well deserved obscurity.

The plot concerns a dressmaker who is accused of breaking into the bedroom of, and trying to abduct, one of his clients; an actress who happens to be engaged to the Prime Minister.  In Naples this is a hanging offence.  Meanwhile someone has made an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate the unpopular Prime Minister with a bomb.  The king is dying and, we learn from his confessor, wishes to make a great act of mercy before he finally snuffs it.  He wishes to pardon the bomber.  Unfortunately the police don’t have a suspect.  The solution is obvious.  The dressmaker must confess to both crimes so that he can be pardoned and hanged for neither.  Unfortunately the king dies before signing the pardon and so the dressmaker must hang.  Following this so far?  Fortunately for him the unpopular Prime Minister is killed in a popular uprising and he is installed in his stead much to the annoyance of the anarchist who did plant the bomb.  They agree that the dressmaker will return to his salon and the actress, who has now fallen in love with him and is, conveniently, no longer engaged.  There’s also a subplot concerning a newspaper reporter and an aspiring actress.

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Cheap enough for beggars

Last night I went to see Essential Opera’s cheap and cheerful production of Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera.  It was a semi staged production in the relatively small Heliconian Hall.  Semi-staged in this case meant sung in costume from music stands with very basic blocking.  Accompaniment was by Cathy Nosaty on piano and accordion which actually suited the music pretty well.

The singing was good, sometimes very good.  Probably the stand out was Laura McAlpine’s Jenny.  Of all the singers on display she was the one who seemed most immersed in the sound world of the piece and could vary style and technique appropriately.  Erin Bardua’s Lucy Brown was really quite idiomatic too.  The others were more consistently operatic which sounded a bit odd in places but worked surprisingly well in, for example David Roth and Heather Jewson’s rather refined refined and bourgeois Peachums.  Obviously this approach also worked for the character who are usually sung operatically; Macheath, Brown and Polly for example.  The ensembles were all also very effective.

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