When you’re a human, you can be pretty much anything you want to be when you grow up – a fire-fighter, a zoologist, a writer, an opera singer. But if you’re a mouse that’s a little more difficult. Opera Mouse, written by Melanie Gall and performed by Melanie Gall and Eden Ballantyne, tells the story of little Tilly Mouse who hears an opera performance through a gap in the theatre wall and is so enchanted by it that she resolves to become an opera singer. However, her animal friends insist that mice can’t sing (they obviously never watched Babe), and any humans she meets scream when they see her. Despite this, Tilly Mouse perseveres in this charming story of a little mouse determined to follow her big dreams.
As Gall and Ballantyne tell Tilly’s story using puppetry, storytelling and song, they introduce their young audience to opera in a simple, accessible way. Gall, an opera singer herself, explains what an opera is, and suggests some of the work that goes into the artform by telling the audience about Tilly’s practice and hard work to become an opera singer. Interspersing the story with snippets of some famous operatic works, Gall and Ballantyne create a delightful and entertaining introduction to an art-form that would not usually be associated with audiences of eager, giggling children!
Both Gall and Ballantyne are skilled performers in their own genres, with Gall’s beautiful musical performance entrancing her listeners, and Ballantyne’s engaging storytelling creating a strong connection with the audience throughout.
Opera Mouse is a sweet and entertaining introduction to opera, that reminds the children (and adults, and mice) in the audience that it is always worth chasing your dreams, because they may just come true!
Opera Mouse runs at Pleasance Courtyard until 27th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Rough Magic and Opera Theatre Company
The Olympia Theatre
22 June 2014
The City of Mahagonny, the city of decadence where anything goes except you. Written towards the end of the roaring twenties and premiered in Germany in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression, this play by Brecht and Weill describes the rise and fall of capitalism and materialism through the imaginary city of Mahagonny and the story of Jimmy Mahony. Founded by a trio on the run from the law, Mahagonny is to be a city of pleasure and a city of debts from which they make their fortune. However, from the off, flaws show through in the plan and the arrival of four lumberjacks from Alaska, including Jimmy Mahony, sees the beginning of the end for this city where food, sex, boxing and drinking are the only way of life.
Somewhat like Mahagonny itself this production by Opera Theatre Company and Rough Magic was overall very enjoyable but sadly had some cracks that showed through, though thankfully not to the same extent as in Mahagonny!
The performances were mostly excellent, particularly by John Molloy as Trinity Moses, who perfectly captured the suave nastiness of his character and whose rich bass filled every corner of The Olympia. Claudia Boyle also delivered a very impressive performance as Jenny, bringing a great power to the character, both vocally and in terms of characterization. I did find however that Julian Hubbard lacked a similar power in his role as Jimmy, with some of his vocals lost to the orchestra, which was a pity as his overall portrayal of the character was promising.
The design by Aedín Cosgrove was generally very good. The re-configuration of the venue, with the orchestra where the left half of the stalls would be and the performers roaming the stalls, circle and the left boxes, was effective from where I was sitting (Row B in the stalls) and, I believe, from the stage seats. However, I doubt it was of much benefit to the audience in the upper circle and boxes. Apart from this, I found the whole production design very impressive, from the simple yet effective lighting to the set; Mahagonny was really brought to life.
The part of the production that, for me, raised the most questions was the final scene. The crucifixion of Jimmy (where in the text he is executed in the electric chair) left me questioning the director’s reasoning. Was it placing Jimmy as a sort of Messiah? If he was, we must question what he was a messiah for. He promoted greed, violence and materialism. Did the director, Lynne Parker, really believe his character deserved the symbolism of the crucifixion or was she simply looking for an easy striking image? Whichever it was, it needed more to explain it.
I think that, like the plans of Begbick, Moses and Fatty, this production seemed promising but fell short in its execution. It was a daring and ambitious project but one that unfortunately did not live up to the ideas of its creators.