Furioso and The Emperor of Atlantis.
One can be forgiven for asking the question when did Handel write Furioso because the answer is that he did not. This is a clever creation of a piece of music theatre telling the story of a couple from their childhood through to old age. By putting together a series of solos and duets from various Handelian operas and rarer chamber pieces, Max Hoehn and the Ardente Opera Company have created a delightful entertainment which is performed by the mezzo Anna Starushkevych and Sporano Allegra Parton. Not only does this creation work, but the voices chosen are perfectly balanced and the music is exquisitely expressed.
The Emperor of Atlantiswas written by Victor Ullmann during his incarceration in Terezin concentration camp and reflects not only his impressions of the camp, but the character of The Emperor is also a thinly disguised parody of Adolph Hitler. This resulted in the rehearsals being closed down by the camp officials and Ullmann was moved to Auschwitz where he was executed a few days later. The Emperor who rules Atlantis as a total dictator has decreed sometime earlier that death is abolished. When war is declared Death lays down his scythe and grumbles with Pierrot that their lives are meaningless without death. Meanwhile the Emperor sits in his palace conducting the war on the telephone. At the front, a soldier and a young girl meet as enemies on the battlefield but are unable to kill one another due to the edict and fall in love. With no one being killed the Emperor’s empire begins to crumble, so he summons Death to resume his work. Death refuses to do so unless the Emperor agrees to be his first victim. The emperor reluctantly accepts, and the opera ends with a chorus welcoming the return of Death to their lives.
The production is simple but very effective with the Loudspeaker, sung with style by David Greco, placed in the midst of the orchestra. Thomas Faulkner and Edmund Hastings playing Death and Pierrot respectively really set the scene of despair and disillusion at the outset which is then amplified further by the Drummer, Maria Fontanais-Simmons, announcing the outbreak of war. Ines Simoes and Stephen Chambers as the girl and the soldier give thrilling performances but the real accolade must go to Nicholas Morris whose performance of The Emperor is superbly acted and sung with great musicality and passion. Good support from a small but very effective orchestra ably conducted by Julian Black completes a moving and disturbing work.
- John Bird