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26 July, 2010

Mad scene gone mad! Sydney University musical muck-up day!

Victoriana at St Paul’s College, Sydney University. The mad scene gone mad. Letter from Dr Bill Brooks, Sydney Alzheimer’s Disease researcher.

Dear Andrew,

Many thanks for keeping us up to date on what’s been happening – we are sorry we missed Mr Bonynge’s birthday bash but unfortunately we were OS. No music or opera, but several galleries – the Huntington (great collection of portraits by Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney, et al.), the Getty, and LACMA (LA County Museum of Art, which has a major collection including several Rembrandts).

Mlle Brun (the former Angela Edwards, who sang for Mr Bonynge in the Auber and Thomas) has been appearing at St Paul’s College with her husband Julian in this year’s Victoriana season – unfortunately not accompanied by me. I would have given my eye teeth to have done it but was overseas for part of the season this year. A young Beardsley-esque pianist called Daniel Ward, in College after studying with Gerard Williams, played brilliantly.

After last year’s Queen of Night (Der Hölle Rache) followed by the Ride of the Valkyries, the powers that be managed to put together a slightly shortened version of Lucia’s Mad Scene, beginning with a very creditable “D’immenso giubilo” (helpfully translated as something like “With jolly minstrelsy...” sung by the small but enthusiastic ensemble of wedding guests, followed by a dramatic announcement from the kitchen door by Raimondo, to which the chorus replied, “What hath happened??” There followed Angela’s entrance in bloodstained dress through the kitchen door, bravura dramatics and then thrilling coloratura singing.

Subtle dramaturgical elements to assist the audience’s understanding were helpfully included. As Lucia chased the elusive flute runs, a canary was hung from a fishing rod for her to chase. When she caught it, it was found to contain a party popper which unfortunately exploded. There was some business with balloons which was reminiscent of Charles Chaplin and the Lohengrin Prelude in “The Great Dictator”. During the cabaletta “Spargi d’amaro pianto” she despatched the balloons one-by-one with a pin, and then each of the singers with a dagger! By the concluding high E flat, the stage was littered with bloodied corpses. The final coup-de-grace was administered by Raimondo, in this production a Franciscan friar, who stabbed Lucia before removing his cowl to reveal his mask as the phantom of the opera.

Written by Bill Brooks who has performed in the Victoriana festivities regularly for over twenty years.