Barefoot Opera – Orfeo and Zanetto

Just a quick post to say how much Battleaxe enjoyed Barefoot Opera’s double-bill production of Gluck’s Orfeo and the little known Zanetto by Mascagni – at St John The Evangelist church in St Leonard’s last night. The singing was fantastic from the small, all-female cast – and their acting was excellent as well.

It was another of those evenings when Battleaxe thought – hmm, after a busy day can I be bothered?  But once again, I’m so glad we went.

We ended up sitting right in the front row, only about six feet away from the action – keeping friend Jill company, who had unexpectedly come on her own. As ever with those events, our chums were out in force – our sudden occupation of the front row rather blocked the view of other good friends Liz and Richard! We were so close to the singers that it felt like having your own private concert. We’ve enjoyed Barefoot productions before – for those who don’t know, they are very pared down, and give opportunities to young singers at the very start of their careers. Staging is minimal, and instrumental parts confined to piano, with in this case, guitar and double-bass. Barefoot is largely the ‘baby’ of Hastings local Jenny Miller.  They are producing a large-scale community opera ‘Bloom Britannia’, in October – sadly, we’ll be in Cornwall.

As soon as Orfeo (Emma Roberts) opened her mouth to sing, I knew were in for something special – she had the most wonderful, powerful mezzo voice, a very expressive face and natural-looking gestures.  Her rendition of the famous ‘Che faro’ aria was genuinely moving. Eurydice (Lizzie Holmes) was also very impressive and sang beautifully, as did the 19 year old soprano Laura West as Amore. All three young women were so confident… the whole experience felt immersive and intimate. The opera had been cut substantially – no great loss in my personal view. I went to a full performance with the Welsh National Opera in Birmingham many years ago… many longeurs.

Being us, we had originally planned to leave at the interval, but in such a prominent position we had to stay – and anyway, we were thoroughly enjoying the evening.  To be honest, Zanetto is no great shakes… a rarely-performed one-act opera. In Battleaxe’s experience things end up not being performed for good reasons… However, the two main singers made an excellent job of it. Once again, the singing was glorious, and their acting was good enough to make the story clear.  Battleaxe would totally recommend – sadly, the production is not on again locally, but is going to London.

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