<< -- 2 -- Robert Hugill GRAND GUIGNOL
During Act 1 we (and Kuma) get our first glimpse of Yuri as he passes by. But the main action, apart from establishing local colour, is when Nikita (Vassily Savenko) and Mamirov (Stephen Richardson) arrive wanting to either close down the brothel or take it over. But Kuma charms Nikita and she persuades Nikita to humiliate Mamirov by forcing him to dance. The entertainment she provides having consisted of a troupe of young ladies in lurid pink hot-pants. Savenko was ideal as the old warlord, gradually succumbing to the charms of a younger woman and Richardson was suitably intense as his nasty side-kick.
Act II takes place at Nikita's office and having been given a large helping of local colour, we now have a remarkable amount of plot to fit in, in just forty minutes. Nikita's wife Evpraksia (Carole Wilson) has a truly powerful scene, well delivered by Wilson, as she voices her worries about her husband. These worries are fed by Mamirov in a strong scene, strongly delivered by the two protagoniasts; Nikita's wife dressed in a wonderfully lurid, Chanel style, pink and green suit.
Now one of the regulars from the brothel has found his way to Nikita's office wanting to get money from Yuri. He is persuaded/forced to spy for Mamirov. This regular, Paisii, then reoccurs regularly in order to make the plot function, but he was wonderfully well played as a near down-and-out by Andrew Friedhoff
Nikita and his wife argue in a terrific scene. Both Savenko and Wilson were on form here as we realise that neither of these two are really likeable.
A mob breaks in, they are smarting from oppression under Nikita's regime and Yuri calms them by being sympathetic to their needs. This is just one area in which the creakiness of the plot is obvious, this theme is never developed. Fielding disguises this by the sheer excitement of the stage action, propelling the opera forward. The whole performance was notable for its excitement and dramatic propulsion. This is a long, wordy opera but Fielding and his cast disguised this wonderfully.
Copyright © 10 July 2004
Robert Hugill, London UK