Right: The cast - Darian Di Stefano-Johns, Glenn Lorimer, Louise Dorsman and Ashleigh Maclaine.
The Underground Opera Company
Produced by Bruce Edwards
Musical Director and keyboard Brendan Murtagh
Spring Hill Reservoir
Season: November 11-20. Running time: two hours 20 minutes with interval. Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au or www.undergroundopera.com.au Tickets $59-$89.
I was promised something different with Underground Opera and I certainly got it. It was a stunning evening of entertainment from a talented group in an amazing venue. To sit under the brick archways six metres underground in a space that, 150 years ago was filled to the brim with the water that supplied the whole of Brisbane, was an experience in itself.
In the centre was the small stage, in the round, or in the square to be more precise, that was big enough for the four singers to move and situated so as the make the best use of the brilliant acoustics that threw the voices right round the 120 seat space. The singers knew the space well too as they ensured the vocals bounced off the archway corners.
I loved the variety in the program, from favourite operatic arias, duets, and quartets (even a quintet sung by four people!) to songs from musical shows like Les Mis and Oliver, with moods from heavy drama to light-hearted fun.
It was an exciting and stimulating evening.
Producer and MC Bruce Edwards was on the door to greet patrons and then kept the full house entertained with his laid back banter as he introduced the cast - Soprano Ashleigh Maclaine, Mezzo Soprano Louise Dorsman, tenor Glenn Lorimer and baritone Darian Di Stefano-Johns.
As well as being top class singers they all proved to be excellent actors as well.
The opening set the standard - a powerful rendering of Nessun Dorma by Glenn Lorimer. Then we had Ashleigh Maclaine and Louise Dorsman sparkling with The Flower Duet from Lakma and Bizet’s The Pearl Fisher’s duet, which was very nicely acted as well as suing by the men.
There was also the favourite O Sole Mio, pieces from Rigoletto and cute solo, Glitter and Gay from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide sung by Ashleigh Maclaine.
The first act, an hour which had sped by ended with Bizet’s spirited Nous avons en tete une affaire, where Carmen decided to leave the band of robbers.
The second act was even more fun, opening with Verdi’s Anvil Chorus from Il Travatore played with triangles and ending with the great drinking song from La Traviata!
In between were songs from The Secret Garden and Oliver and a trio of delights from The Barber of Seville, which had the house roaring with laughter. For me a couple of highlights were Jerome Kern’s Old Man River from Showboat and Verdi’s Largo al factotum from The Barber of Seville. Both these contrasting pieces were sung by baritone Darian Di Stefano-Johns and he hit the mood perfectly, finding the voice-stretching range of Old Man River with ease and finding all the fun in Figaro’s tale of woe.
All this magic was aided and abetted on the keyboard by Brendan Murtagh and some nice lighting effects from Chloe Dunn and video projection from Nathan Sibthorpe.
This was my fist visit to Underground Opera, and must say that hopefully it won’t be my last.
A few practical tips: The venue is reached by a stairway from the surface, which should not prove a problem for most people. The steps are well spaced, a comfortable height and graduated. There is a bar in the venue but the toilets are on the surface so it’s up and down the stairs again for a comfort break.
It is easy to find, with $10 parking a minute walk, although we managed to find street parking quite easily.
It really is a great venue and the entertainment was outstanding.
Eric and Dee with the cast and below with MC Bruce Edwards