Site-specific love

Keith Gallasch

Composer Richard Vella’s performative concert Tales of Love has been newly produced at the Parramatta Riverside Theatres with Trenet, Piaf-Dumont, Adam de la Halle, Purcell, Satie, Wagner, Schönberg and Monteverdi supplying the raw material for Vella’s arrangements which are effectively entwined with and framed by his own works including the engaging Colour Music series. Compared with the provocative, sometimes hilarious 1990 production (devised by Vella, John Baylis, Annette Tesoriero, Nigel Kellaway) this is a genteel affair, but no less appealing (if not as tightly framed) for its more meditative and less ironic stance. Beyond the excellence of its performers, mezzo soprano Karen Cummings, baritone Didier Frederic and The Seymour Group, the triumph of the production was in the polymorphous transformation of the theatre–any of its spaces becoming sites for the longings, laments and joys of love, and the reversal of expectations.

On arrival, the audience are led past dressing rooms from which recorded music flows, then outside to the loading bay where the sound system of a wrecked car tinnily broadcasts a pop love ("I am calling you") and, nearby, red wine has been spilled on a the table cloth of a one table restaurant setting. Trouble. Backstage, seriously passionate tunes embrace the audience before they are led to their seats. Looking down onto a small orchestra and, dimly, into a vast theatre space, they realise they are on-stage–a certain vulnerability and openness follows. Soon, singers appear mid-auditorium, on balconies, and amidst expressionist forests and beneath a fairy light heaven as associate director Neil Simpson’s lighting alchemically mirrors love’s many visions. The 2 night season was too brief for such magic and such creative investment from Vella and Simpson and their team, but the Paramatta Riverside is to be congratulated for supporting the venture and attracting a responsive audience.


Calculated Risks Opera, Tales of Love, original music, arrangements, direction Richard Vella, associate direction, lighting Neil Simpson, design Ina Shanahan; performers Karen Cummings, Didier Frederic, The Seymour Group; Parramatta Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, Sydney, Jan 18,19

RealTime issue #47 Feb-March 2002 pg.

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net