The average life expectancy of a soprano is two and a half hours, so we learn in Death by Soprano. When it comes to the great operas, most of the demises suffered by the leading ladies involve suicide but agents of death can also include avalanche, consumption, melting and beheading by guillotine. Death by Soprano is a very fabulous and amusing cabaret/opera show which travels an emotional range through an alphabet of deaths. We don’t quite reach ‘z’ but this show provides a satisfying taste of some of the best loved arias, offering its audience some stunning operatic moments alongside bouts of hilarity.
Opera and comedy aren’t often seen together in the context of a show that doesn’t deride the former; with Hertaeg’s show you get the actual impact of the darkness and tragedy of the stories – this is a show about death after all – and there’s a balance of light and dark here that’s most skilfully handled. Hertaeg can really sing, her vocal range is stunning and her voice is strong so that, unless you absolutely hate opera, then the beauty of her renditions and snippets of classic arias will thrill. If you do absolutely hate opera then go along anyway as you may just be converted. The aria from Madame Butterfly is especially heartbreaking, and the performance allows the audience a suitable moment of transition before shifting tone again.
Stand out moments in terms of emotion are Brunhild’s aria from the Ring Cycle, and the vignette from Poulenc’s Dialogue of the Carmelites, more so when you learn that this opera is based on a true story – in 1794 during the ‘Robespierre bit’ of the French Revolution, 14 nuns and two servants were guillotined. Hertaeg allows each nun her final words in song and lets extensiveness inform the mood, a possibly risky strategy that absolutely pays off. This is where we get to see a most clever use of evocative props, eloquent and simple. More often the props are silly, witty and fun; the concepts and Hertaeg’s timing and the pacing in this show are all excellent. She’s accompanied on piano by Jo Abbott.
Death by Soprano is done on a shoestring, yet looks a million bucks. Go see.
2014 Melbourne Fringe
Death By Soprano
Venue: The Melba Spiegeltent | 35 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Dates: 17 – 28 September, 2014
Tickets: $30.00 – $25.00