With bucket loads of farcical frivolity and not a dying heroine in sight, Robert Andrew Greene’s Two Weddings, One Bride is anything but ordinary operetta fare. Based on Charles Lecocq’s 1874 classic operetta ‘Girofle-Girofla’, this musical souffle is a fast paced, action packed little comedy that keeps you chuckling throughout. By combining some of the most beautiful songs in the history of operetta (Strauss, Offenbach, Lehar, Kalman, Lecocq, Stolz) with a minimal but genius set design (Owen Phillips) and glorious costumes (Tim Chappel), this new piece creates a delicious platter of sensual delights. The choreography of Andrew Hallsworth is fast paced and inventive and certainly keeps the singers – who bustle to and fro for the duration of the piece – on their toes.
The hilarity takes place at the residence of the French Governor in Morocco where preparations are underway for the forthcoming double wedding of twins Girofle and Girofla. When pirates kidnap Girofla, Girofle and her parents devise a cunning plan to keep the unsuspecting bridegrooms in the dark.
John Bolton Wood and Geraldine Turner are suitably stodgy old fuddy-duddies as Girofle and Giroflas’ parents. The comic timing of their love-hate relationship is a delight to see and Turner’s powerful music theatre voice alongside Bolton Wood’s operatic approach works surprisingly well. Quite a stunt to include Australian show biz icon Geraldine Turner in an Opera Australia production although I can imagine some purists will be frowning.
Soprano Julia Lea Goodwin as the ‘brides-to-be’ is simply beautiful as the slightly goofy Girofle and the somewhat more sophisticated Girofla. Goodwin’s voice is sweet and limpid, her movement agile and her persona appealing; a convincing actress also, the quick costume changes need to be seen to be believed.
Tenor Nicholas Jones as Marasquin – ‘the son of a banker, of what a wanker!’ (by far the standout line of the show) is also perfectly cast and in possession of an easy, warm vocal production and attractive stage presence. His rendition of Lehar’s ‘Vilja Lied’ is a highlight of the evening and his intended’s ‘hangover’ reaction to his serenade hilarious. How refreshing to see an opera not taking itself too seriously.
As the lusty-limbed Generale Modigliani and Girofla’s intended, baritone Andrew Jones creates a simultaneously delightful and cringeworthy character with impressively camp hip thrusts that won’t easily be forgotten. Modigliani's increasing frustration at the absence of his bride is well played out and Jones’s singing is rock solid and with an unswerving commitment to character.
Tenor David Lewis is chameleon-like whilst playing four different characters: ‘Pedro’, ‘a Spanish cook’, ‘a wedding celebrant’ and ‘an Australian Colonel’ all in one evening. With excellent singing and diction, his costume changes also take place at breakneck speed (it would be fascinating to see those in action) and I particularly enjoyed his pious portrayal of a ‘man of the cloth’ (an alternative career choice perhaps?).
Due to the small scale of this production, a piano (Robert Andrew Green) and violin (Yuhki Mayne) duo provide the musical accompaniment to the action on stage; we can also see the musicians which is a bonus. Given that the show runs for approximately an hour and a half without interval, the level of concentration shown by these two master musicians is incredible indeed. Interesting to note also that a duo can successfully shoulder the entire musical accompaniment of a show (economical in more than one sense of the word).
I loved Two Weddings, One Bride. It’s a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and it is really great to see Opera Australia branching out and exploring accessible new works – by doing so the company should be able to appeal to a far broader audience base. Don’t miss it.
Opera Australia presents
Two Weddings, One Bride
created by Robert Andrew Greene
Directed by Dean Bryant
Venue: Playhouse at Sydney Opera House
Dates: 29 April – 21 May 2017 | 7 – 25 June 2017 | 12 – 22 October 2017
Tickets: from $99