S&H Concert review

Andrew SCHULTZ Going into Shadows (World Première) Guildhall School of Music & Drama 13 June 2001 (PGW)
Thursday, 7th - 13th June 2001 Guildhall School Theatre

A failed terrorist attack, a tangled love affair and the symbiotic relationship of the media and society form some of the main themes of Andrew Schultz's compelling new opera. Commissioned by the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. Production mounted with the collaboration of the National Film and Television School.
David Porcelijn, Conductor
Stephen Medcalf, Director
Jamie Vartan, Set Desginer
Colin Window, Costume Designer
Lighting Designer, Giuseppe Di Iorio

This is a short notice to commend unreservedly the production and performance of a new opera with which, I have to say with some temerity, I found myself progressively more out of sympathy as it proceeded. The Anglo-Australian project had a ten-year gestation for Adelaide-born composer Andrew Schultz (b. 1960 & now Head of Composition Studies at the Guildhall) and his librettist sister Julianne Schultz. They were well served by this thoroughly professional staging, which was up to Guildhall's usual high standard* of conception and detailed realisation.

I found the story line about several Big Themes, including betrayal and the media unconvincing and often banal, and the music far too derivative, going from near Britten via Stravinsky, to Mahler for the 'tragic' ending. But it was meant to be populist in its appeal, as the lavish publication The Making of an Opera makes clear. The problem is probably mostly mine; the audience (mainly student supporters of the cast, it seemed) were contented and suitably vociferous in their appreciation. I did not find that Schultz had the individuality of, say, Jonathan Dove, whose Flight for Glyndebourne and Palace in the Sky at Hackney have been so admired.

Katarina Johanovic was outstanding as the duped heroine, who was arrested at the airport with a bomb in her luggage, on her way to get married. The rest of the large cast did well, notably the important chorus which represents intolerance of 'the hysterical masses'. Video close-ups strengthened involvement with the plight of the uncomprehending Bernadette and her mother (Lise Christensen). David Porcelijn was in charge of a full-blooded account of the score, with onstage instrumentalists adding a particularly felicitous contribution.

In September Going into Shadows will be given in Brisbane's Griffith University on an exchange with Queensland Conservatorium; Seen&Heard would welcome a further review from there.

Peter Grahame Woolf

*See also recent review of The Snowmaiden

- - - The standard of presentation, both visual and musical, bears comparison with the fare at many world-renowned operatic venues. Indeed, by relying upon imagination, and turning the limits on finance and stage space to advantage, the Guildhall has regularly left images of sound and sight that stay in the memory longer than some more pretentious and other more conventional productions - - -

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