At first I thought about titling this post "The End of Bliss", and then I realised that was completely inappropriate, because it wasn't. Closing night in Melbourne might have concluded the opera's premier Australian run, but that's as much finality as I'm willing to acknowledge. And not just because there's still the two Edinburgh Festival performances and the new production in Hamburg to come. What I saw on Saturday evening was an opera with all the polish, vitality and pliability to keep on keeping on, beyond this country, this cast or the first flurry of hype. Bliss as an opera, as an independent musical entity, has emerged with all the strength and polish I had hoped for, and more (and in different flavours, if you can have flavoured polish) besides.
That's not to say that it outdid my Sydney experience. It didn't, and it didn't need to, and in fact I'm not even sure that the comparison is relevant. I mean, if I do throw them all in together, then I suppose I would rate this as perhaps the third-best performance of the seven I've seen. That sounds awful, doesn't it? Consider that the best was one of the thrillingest nights of opera I've ever had, however, and it's not nearly so bad. And even number seven on that list, if I worked it out, would still have been an excellent performance, because there weren't any that weren't. I loved it every time, and the difference from performance to performance has really not been so much in the degree of that love as in the variety.
So Sydney Bliss and Melbourne Bliss have been two different creatures. Two, rather than seven. I saw it six times here, and while each performance of course has its own individual existence — and for many people constituted the entirety of their Bliss experience — for me, the season felt much more like six segments of a single, developing whole. And it also felt — there's no other way to put this — like it was mine. I felt (and still feel, and will probably always feel) a degree of possessiveness about Bliss, and it's not surprising that that emotion was strongest during its Sydney season. Sydney's Bliss is the Bliss I ate, breathed and slept, and the one with which I fell in love.
Melbourne's isn't. But it's many other things, and above all, it's the Bliss which properly crystallised the sentiments in my first paragraph. After a month off and a change of setting, I was able detach myself just a little, and to engage with Bliss on terms closer to those on which I'd engage with any performance of a favourite opera — still besotted, still (let's face it) biased, but nevertheless, not personally invested in quite the same way. Which, while less intense and, alright, a bit less fun than my Sydney experience, confirmed what I had already more or less concluded, which is that Bliss doesn't depend on my or anyone else's personal attachment to be brilliant. It just is brilliant.
This has all come out a bit more clinically than I expected. (Although to be properly clinical it would probably need fewer italics.) But, hey, you get enough breathless rhapsodising from me anyway, without my manufacturing it for a performance which elicited a different sort of positive response. I'm sure you get my drift; at least, I hope you do.
I've also neglected to say anything much about the actual performance. Which is sort of ridiculous of me, although then again, I don't know what there is to add — all previous praise applies, basically. Merlyn Quaife was a wonder, Lorina Gore was adorable, David Corcoran is Going Places, Taryn Fiebig owns the role of Lucy in perpetuity, Barry Ryan was brilliant (and his Alex was feistier in Melbourne than in Sydney), Kanen Breen is a fiendishly good adlibber of insults. You know all this. There were a couple of tweaks in the staging — Harry and Honey pledged their love further downstage, Alex and Harry did an impressively elaborate office-chair dance instead of just skidding around, and Honey was, inexplicably, a blonde. I think a couple of spoken syllables are now sung, probably just for clarity's sake. Brett Dean's unfathomably rich score is even richer played from a decent orchestra pit; I was hearing things all night that I hadn't even known were there. I did struggle a little (from Row H-for-Harry) with the effect of said pit, and of the larger space, on the balance between singers and orchestra; I suspect I've spoilt myself a bit here by always sitting so close. The foyers and escalators of the Arts Centre continue to defeat both my navigational sense and my phone. And what else — oh, yes, that's right — Peter Coleman-Wright was and is made of magic, his Harry beautiful beyond words. He's a privilege, a delight and a total star, and I — in case you hadn't noticed — just think the world of him.
And now I think that really might be it. We've reached the end of the beginning and the beginning of — well, who knows. The future. A long, happy life. As they say in the films, it's not goodbye, just au revoir. It's been grand, Bliss, and heaven knows I'll miss you — but I've a good feeling about you, and I think we'll meet again.