Stéphane Mayer’s Les Adieux recital yesterday in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre was definitely out of the ordinary. Rather than a concert or recital format we got a fully staged and costumed version of two Oscar Wilde related works. First up was Saint Saëns’ version of The Nightingale and the Rose with Matt Pilipiak reading the story, Danika Lorèn as the Nightingale and Stéphane at the piano. It was well done and a reminder of what a truly lovely voice Danika has.
One probably can’t go far wrong with an adaptation of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and the operetta, Earnest,The Importance of Being by Victor Davies and Eugene Benson doesn’t. In fact it doesn’t go far from Wilde at all following the plot of the original faithfully and containing all the well known lines. It means too, of course, that it has the flaws as well as the virtues of the original. The first act can drag a bit as Wilde gets a bit too clever but t builds to a very effective second half which flies by. The duet for the girls, To Speak With Perfect Candour is probably the best number in the piece. Davies’ music too does not try to be too portentous. It’s a bit of a pot pourri of styles with, at least, big band music, classical operetta, popular song of the period and what seems to be a nod to Andrew Lloyd-Webber. It’s perfectly consistent with the text. I don’t think though that there’s a single number that one would call truly hummable.
Richard Strauss’ Salome opens April 21st at Canadian Opera Company in a production by Atom Egoyan. Curiously, this is a piece I know well in three languages as besides the Hedwig Lachmann German translation I own a bilingual edition containing both the original French text and Wilde’s own English translation. My copy is one of a limited edition published by the Limited Edition Club in 1938. It contains the English text with reproductions of the original Beardsley illustrations as well as a separate volume of the French text illustrated with pochoirs by Fauvist André Derain. Here’s an example.
There are a dozen photos of text and illustrations from the French volume here for people who like that sort of thing.