This run of The Makropulos Secret isn't the first time I've
attended the entire season of an opera, but it has without a doubt been
the most rewarding. Each performance on its own would probably have been enough to keep even a smitten fool
such as myself quite gushingly happy. As for six, well, what can I say? I have had a marvellous time, and
it has gone much too quickly. Now that it's over, it's time I paid final tribute to the artistic team who has brought this Makropulos Secret to such stunning life.
So, I salute...
...John Pringle, whose performance as Baron Prus marked his retirement from Opera Australia after forty-one years. I regret that I haven't lived here long enough to appreciate the scope and excellence of his career. But his
Prus was a masterpiece, and his singing to the very end was all class —
a perfect final flourish. Kudos to him, too, for throwing a joke about
nepotism (rather a hot topic at OA these days) into his farewell
...the fabulous front-of-house woman (I don't know her name or official title, but I am her biggest fan) who equipped us with handfuls of streamers to throw at the end.
...the subscriber who, as his usual seatmates informed me, had exchanged his ticket, leaving A27 free for me to book.
...Neil Armfield, whose talent for directing amazing opera borders on the ridiculous.
...Richard Hickox, who, in the face of flickering lights, a disappearing soprano and a temperamental curtain, conducted four fabulous performances.
...Stephen Mould, who took over the last two performances with such panache.
...Nigel Levings (lighting) and Carl Friedrich Oberle (sets & costumes) for their drop dead gorgeous design...and especially for Emilia's Act I costume, Hauk-Sendorf's travelling suit, the giant, handless clock, the crack in the wall and Emilia's shadow.
...Andrew Collis, for being SO funny, and for ending Act I in a way that simply demands applause. He may be my favourite Opera Australia Andrew, although there a lot to choose from.
...Catherine Carby, whose Kristina is so very lovely. Kristina's main function is to be overshadowed, of course. For her two brief scenes in the spotlight, though, Catherine is pure joy — in a different sort of opera, her voice and charisma could easily carry the show.
...Kanen Breen, not always my favourite voice, as we know, but a
reliably engaging performer with a host of talents, including a rare
gift for physical comedy, which make him a true asset to the company.
...Jacqui Dark, if for no other reason that that I flat out ADORE her, and can't wait for her Komponist in Melbourne next year.
...Dominica Matthews, for being fabulous, and because I am inevitably a fan of redheaded opera singers. I'm willing to bet she'll ace her Orlando in Melbourne next month, and I sort of wish we'd seen her here, too.
...Andrew Goodwin. Adorable does not do him justice. Hope he's happy playing guileless young heroes forever, because he's made for it.
...Peter Wedd, whose rather interesting voice I'd love to hear in a role really designed to show it off. And I loved the twitchy way he played Gregor, as if he'd walked straight out of a Peter Wimsey story.
...Shane Lowrencev, for being nine feet tall. And a rather nifty singer to boot.
...Robert Gard, for stealing the show in such brilliantly lunatic fashion, for still sounding fantastic at 81(?), and for very graciously signing my programme.
...Dinah Shearing, for her simply beautiful performance as Emilia Marty Incarnate. Her entrance brought tears to my eyes every single time, and her playing of that whole final scene was quite extraordinary.
...the men's chorus, not just for their big moment at the end (which I love) but for so gamely donning skirts and bobbed wigs in Act I to play the women in Kolenaty's waiting room.
...Leoš Janáček, for absolutely everything, obviously, but in particular for the devastating solo strings which herald Emilia's final transformation. And, oh, so many other things...
...Seat C40. It knows why.
And I salute Cheryl Barker. Repeatedly. I know that I am losing credibility by the minute where Cheryl is concerned. I also know that I am running out of new words for her, so forgive me if I recycle a few of the old ones. The fact is that you do not have to be smitten — you do not have to be me — to appreciate that Cheryl's Emilia was a work of ravishing inspiration. You only had to hear the fire in her voice, or see it in her eyes... and then I defy you to resist. In his own farewell speech, John Pringle, with remarkable modesty, took the opportunity to solicit an extra ovation for his phenomenal leading lady. "I don't think there is anybody else in the world," he said, "who could match Cheryl in this role...or even come close." High praise indeed, and she deserves every syllable of it. She's stunning, and we are beyond fortunate to have her here. Somewhere in composer heaven, Janáček must be smiling.