Pegasus Opera Ruth and The Dark Lady of the Sonnets, 4 Stars

Pegasus Opera Ruth and The Dark Lady of the Sonnets
The Actor’s Church
28th Feb to 4th March 2018

Pegasus Opera Company presents this double bill of  the New York-based composer Philip Hagemann who also conducts the premieres of these two pieces.

The first opera Ruth is based on the biblical story, one of only two books in the Bible named after a woman. This adaptation is a tale of acceptance, sacrifice and loyalty with Ruth, a Moabite marrying the Israeli, Boaz. The second opera is The Dark Lady of the Sonnets by George Bernard Shaw, a fun one-act piece that reimagines the first meeting between William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth. While Shakespeare is in a secret relationship with a lady of the royal court he is enamoured with the Queen. As Shakespeare juggles both women’s tempers and desires, he finds himself inspired to write new material.”

Review by Mark Banfield, 4 Stars

Ruth is a straightforward telling of the Old Testament story, while The Dark Lady of the Sonnets adapts a George Bernard Shaw comedy which presents  a secret encounter between Shakespeare and Elizabeth I.

The musical style of both is essentially open and tonal, Ruth offering the singers grateful, flowing arioso, while The Dark Lady tends to angularity – though Shakespeare finds room to indulge in lyrical outbursts that display Hagemann’s gift for melody.

Accompanied by the rich-sounding and evocative , harpsichord-style keyboard  prominently in Dark Lady.

The liobretto which has been superbly handled by Hagemann and due to subjects style of Tudorisms and Biblical referenceiing could have presented real challenges to the singers and the audience  but their execution engaging and exuberant   from Alison Buchanan as Ruth and Byron Jackson as Boaz, while Kamilla Dunstan makes an expressive , stately, if young, Naomi and Damien Noyce a active Amnon.

In The Dark Lady, Sarah Champion dominates as Elizabeth, though Oliver Brignal an concentrated Shakespeare. Annabelle Williams is a dulcet toned Dark Lady and Peter Brathwaite a stanch, alert Warder.

Director Eduardo Barreto, an opera newbie maintains stylised, sometimes touching simplicity in Ruth, and he supercharges the final discourse by placing singers around the audience, standing on pews.

Dark Lady, meanwhile, presents a more coy tongue in cheek humour as would be expected of Shakespeare.

Photo Credit: Sharron Wallace