The Telephone and Gentlemen’s Island are two independent plays presented together as a double bill by Operantics at the Independent Theatre in North Sydney.
The Telephone is the opening piece. A short opera buffa (comic opera) written by Gian Carlo Menotti in 1947, it details one man’s struggle to discuss an important question with his partner only to be constantly interrupted by the call of her telephone and the latest gossips and dramas amongst her friends. Though a little clichéd in its representation of gender roles (undoubtedly reflecting the time it was written), the piece has its moments of genuine humour. Its strength, however, lies in the mesmerizing music and the incredible performance by leading lady Samanta Lestavel. While the premise wears a bit thin over the course of the play, the playful way in which Lestavel belts out her numbers keeps the audience wonderfully engaged. Unfortunately, due mostly to the writing of the music, Ian Warwick is his role as the hopeful boyfriend is never really able to match her power.
The second piece, Gentlemen’s Island, is another comedic piece composed by Joseph Horovitz with a libretto by Gordon Snell. After two proper Englishmen, Mr. Gray (Ryan O’Donnell) and Mr. Somers (Hayden Barrington) are left shipwrecked on a desert island, they are horrified to discover that, as societal norms would demand it, they are unable to begin a conversation without a mutual friend to introduce them. A clever parody of the underlying politeness in British culture, the opera is witty and entertaining, giving both actors a lot of room to play within their roles. While the music in this piece never quite reaches the levels of captivation that The Telephone demands, the beautifully hilarious and charming performances by Ryan O’Donnell and Hayden Barrington make up for that in spades.
Together, the pieces make for an entertaining combination delving into the short, comedic side of opera. While the performances across the board are quite incredible, special praise has to be given to the accompanist performing on piano, Nathaniel Kong, who’s work in both pieces was nothing short of astounding.
Although the season for this double bill is now over, I look forward to Operantics next production of Mansfield Park running between April 20th and 24th.
More information can be found at www.operantics.com.au.
Featuring: Samanta Lestavel, Ian Warwick, Ryan O’Donnell, Hayden Barrington
Creative Team: Katie Miller-Crispe (Artistic Director & Producer), Tristan Entwhistle (Artistic Advisor & Director)