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07 May, 2008

My Fair Lady - is this appropriate for an Opera Gala Opening?

My Fair Lady - Sydney Opera House 7.30pm Saturday 22nd June 2008. Gala Season Opening.

Despite being an artistic success, in some respects this was an acutely embarrassing event, sadly reflecting the current management's lack of commitment to opera, singers and their traditional audience. They continue to chase the theatrical dollar rather than respecting the art form their organisation is named for. Nobody minds some lighter pieces and the company does musicals and G&S as well as anyone. Yet this is an opera company and we paid for opera tickets and we deserve an opera for our season opening! It would be like going to the tennis and being told there would only be basketball playing! Enough of that.

Reg Livermore successfully played Henry Higgins, a character perhaps half his own age. I heard complaints that he sang too much while others said he sang too little, so he probably got the balance right! While no opera singer, his singing voice is quite pleasant, if a little nasal at times. His quip and quiddity on stage are superlative where he is the true professional. So too was his mother, Misses Higgins, played by another veteran, Nancye Hayes who was hilarious.
Eliza was Taryn Fiebig, a trained opera singer who, like everybody else, was seriously amplified. She played this ‘gift’ part beautifully including the accents. She was sensitive, vulnerable and yet self confident and independent by the end - with its ambiguous dénouement.
Colonel Pickering was played by Rhys McConnochie; Alfred Doolittle by Robert Grubb; Mrs Pearce by Adele Johnston. All the main and supporting roles were excellent. The chorus was also in fine form.

The production is original and engaging with a revolve to allow immediate scene changes. Clever detail allowed a glance at patrons inside the pub before it rotated further to become a street frontage where we heard some of the many pot-boilers of the score. The costumes were splendid, especially the Royal Ascot ladies in their grey, black and coral outfits with some extraordinary and enormous hats. Costumes by Roger Kirk, sets Richard Roberts, direction Stuart Maunder.

The two scenes in the Higgins residence in Wimpole Street were brilliantly created. We heard ‘The rain in Spain’ in the comfortable gentleman’s studio while the stunning entrance of the transformed Eliza (and her disappearance later on) occurred in an elegant entrance hall and stairway.

The orchestra played well under maestro Andrew Greene. The audience was appreciative and obligingly clapped along with the rum-tee-tum strains accompanying the curtain calls. The best performance, however, may have been the glorious full moon which rose 15 minutes before the show, clearly visible from the balcony, foyer and eastern walkways of the Opera House.
Comments by Andrew Byrne ..

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