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pinchgut opera’s platee : a magnificent production

Go on, treat yourself. Shining , superbly performed ,this is a splendid performance by Pinchgut Opera , in combination with Cantillation and the Orchestra of the Antipodes .It was filmed at the City Recital Hall and streamed on Pinchgut at home .

Pinchgut is celebrating its twentieth year, and PLATEE is directed by Neil Armfield making his Pinchgut debut. The Orchestra, on stage for the entire performance,was nimbly led by Erin Helyard  .The Orchestra featured a pair of Baroque bassoons ( called ‘Castor’ and ‘Pollux’) and two musette solos (a musette is a sort of mini bagpipe).

Written in 1745 , Platée, Rameau’s first attempt at comic opera, uses the libretto by Jacques Autreau adapted by Le Valois d’Orville and Sylvain Ballot de Sauvot .

Based on a blend of Greek and Roman fable the plot can be summarised briefly as follows – we are introduced to Platee, an ugly water nymph , who is tricked into a marriage with Jupiter , the king of the gods , in place of his wife Juno, as a means of making Juno realise that her jealousy is unwarranted. Platee’s love is viciously ridiculed. When Juno tears away Platée’s veil at the wedding ceremony with Jupiter, she becomes aware of the ’ practical joke’ engineered by her peers . Poor Platee’s heart broken indignity is marked as the ruling couple are reconciled .Mortified Platee departs for her pond but not before Malvolio like swearing revenge on everyone.

Perhaps the message is that defenceless people endure while almighty ones can be unkind and fickle .

PLATEE begins the morning after a wedding – all the chorus (marvellous Cantillation) are strewn about with bad hangovers.The huge set, designed by Stephen Curtis with its possibly dangerous steps is all white and the reception feast table and wedding cake are still available . The combination of Alexander Berlage lighting and Sean Bacon’s astutely employed video design at the back of the stage allows for clouds, thunder ,tempests, a Midsuumer Night’s Dream like donkey and we also see Coleman Wright and Barker being summoned from their dressing rooms for instance. An on stage photographer to project the images onto a large suspended screen is intrinsic to the performance .

There is symbolism with the wedding cake and various couple (and others) figurines .

Kanen Breen as Platee has a glorious time luxuriously , sumptuously hogging the limelight and stealing the show in a superlative performance .S/he struts , voluptuously  cavorts, towering over everyone else in her thigh-high pink platform boots ( very ABBA ) , a pale green wig and a short lime green feathery cape .His is a burnished , resplendent haute contre voice that is perfect for the role as he as he reveals its many layers .At times he can be audacious and salacious but he also can be explosively incandescent.

Peter Coleman Wright as Jupiter has a spectacular entrance with a a puff of smoke , a cloud of balloons ,light sabre as a thunderbolt and Momus ( David Greco) as attendant . Cheryl Barker as Juno is magnificent and imposing.Both give stately , refined , sterling performances full of aplomb .At first Juno is furious , with a coloratura aria in some ways reminiscent of The Queen of the Night from Mozart’s The Magic Flute .

Cathy-Di Zhang was phenomenal in the double role of Love and Madness with an electric guitar as Madness in Act 2 (‘Apollo’s stolen lyre’), jumping up on the table and cavorting vigorously. The only change she made to her filmy white outfit was to use black lipstick (as Madness),delineating the borderline between love and madness .

Nicholas Jones as Mercury/Thespis arrives on luggage trolley,blending his cheeky flourishing  with an elegantly lustrous tenor .As Thespis he is invigorated before transforming into an open minded natty Mercury.

Adrian Tamburini is in impressive resonant bass-baritone voice first as Le Satyre then as arresting Citheron, King of Greece. As the clown with yellow wig Momus , the god of mockery , David Greco is also most impressive. They are ably supported by Amy Moore’s gleaming , expressive Thalie and Chloe Lankshear’s lustrous Clorine (Lankshear sings the poignant ‘ O sun,flee this place’.

A magnificent musical and vocal treat , PLATEE marks Pinchgut’s twentieth anniversary . Long may it continue.

Pinchgut Opera
Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Lyrics by Jacques Autreau
Conductor: Erin Helyard
Director: Neil Armfield
Designer: Stephen Curtis
Movement director: Shannon Burns
Lighting Designer: Alexander Berlage
Video designer: Sean Bacon
Cantillation Chorus
Orchestra of thAntipodes

Kanen Breen – Platée
Peter Coleman-Wright AO – Jupiter
Cheryl Barker AO – Juno
Cathy-Di Zhang – La Folie / Amour
Nicholas Jones – Mercury / Thespis
Adrian Tamburini – Cithéron / Satire
David Greco – Momus
Chloe Lankshear – Clarine / Chorus
Amy Moore – Thalie / Chorus





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