Glorious live theatre impresses at Queen's Hall

Deborah Aboud, left, Natalia Dopwell, Edward Cumberbatch and Anneliese Kelly on stage at Picoplat Music Development Foundation's production of Mozart's The Impresario at Queen's Hall, St Ann's.  - Ayanna Kinsale
Deborah Aboud, left, Natalia Dopwell, Edward Cumberbatch and Anneliese Kelly on stage at Picoplat Music Development Foundation's production of Mozart's The Impresario at Queen's Hall, St Ann's. - Ayanna Kinsale

PATRONS attending the first live show at Queen’s Hall, St Ann's, since the start of the covid19 pandemic said they felt happiness and a sense of relief at being able to experience a live performance again. The production Glorious was staged by the Picoplat Music Development Foundation on Saturday and Sunday.

The show, which was less than two hours long, consisted of Christmas carols and songs and a staged performance of Mozart’s operetta The Impresario. Covid19 protocols were built into the performances, with the singers maintaining a safe physical distance while performing.

The carols included The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy, Carol of the Bells, and Oh Holy Night, sung by an ensemble cast of tenor Edward Cumberbatch, baritone Krisson Joseph, and sopranos Deborah Aboud, Anneliese Kelly and Natalia Dopwell, as well as Go Tell It on The Mountain, sung by Kelly, Amid The Roses sung by Dopwell, The Kings, performed by Cumberbatch and Sussex Carol sang by Aboud.

They were accompanied by pianist Eunmi Choi and conducted by musical director June Nathaniel, with dramatic direction by Dr Helmer Hilwig.

Krisson Joseph and Natalia Dopwell perform on November 28 during the Glorious production at Queen's Hall, St Ann's. - Ayanna Kinsale

Joseph performed his newly-written work If We Ever Needed Christmas, which referenced the problems people had experienced over the past year and called for peace, love and good cheer to people everywhere. Joseph, who regularly sings calypso, invited the audience to sing along.

The Impresario, Mozart’s operetta about the perils of trying to open an opera company duelling sopranos, featured newly-written English lyrics by Callie Caldwell. The lyrics placed the divas Mrs Cantwell, played by Dopwell, and Ms Honeywell, played by Kelly, as the prima donnas of Port of Spain and Siparia respectively, drawing laughter from the audience. Dopwell did an outstanding job of portraying the slightly sinister Cantwell, while Kelly shone as the seductive Honeywell.

Joseph’s characterisation of Buffo, the conman Casanova of a costume designer who wants to become an opera singer played well alongside Cumberbatch’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the artistic Impresario, who insists on making art for art’s sake, even as his character is bewildered by Cantwell and Buffo’s insistence on changing his music to make money. Aboud’s turn as the mezzo-soprano Mrs Borghesa, who unites the duelling sopranos against her, was well-timed and acted.

While there were some difficulties in hearing some of the lyrics, the performance was well received by the audience, who laughed and applauded throughout.

There were approximately 50 patrons present on either night.

Natalia Dopwell, left, Edward Cumberbatch and Anneliese Kelly squabble during a scene from The Impresario. - Ayanna Kinsale

Dopwell, who is also the foundation’s director, said many people expressed unease with coming to a live performance.

“People don’t assess risk well. They are more safe in a socially-distanced performance than at a crowded mall, or visiting friends with no masks on and no protocols being enforced.

"But it's new, so it will take a while for them to relax. We are thrilled to be ushering a new era of socially-distanced live performance in TT. We may be the first this season, but we hope that acceptance of live performance that adheres to live safety protocols will grow in popularity and become part of our new normal until this global crisis is over.”

She said she had received requests to take the show to south Trinidad as well as to stream it online, but this was just not feasible.

“Without further sponsorship it really can't happen. We’ve cut every cost we can, but there’s no making money on such a small hall. Sponsorship is also slim, so the ticket prices can't come down even at 50 per cent rental fees.”

Patrons said they were looking forward to more live shows.

Composer Michael Hudlin, whose live show And On Earth, Peace, will take place on December 4 in San Fernando, said he enjoyed the experience very much.

“I haven’t been to Queen’s Hall since the Music Festival, so it was quite an experience. It was nice to see that they worked within the means and stayed within the limitations the government has put in place and produced a show that was well worth my time.”

Sjaelan Bouville said this was the first live show she had ever been to and it was mesmerising.

“I’ve never been to a live show before, especially not one that was an opera, and I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. But it was beautiful. Honestly, I was driven to tears a few times, and it raised my pores. It was really beautiful and I hope to come to see another one some other time.”

Publicist Janine Charles-Farray said she was interested in seeing how the singers would carry out socially-distanced performing.

“I was quite impressed by the protocols and procedures of Queen’s Hall and of course the onstage blocking and direction by Dr Helmer Hilwig was excellent. Given the restrictions of social distance, it didn’t hamper the performance in any way, I barely even noticed it. But at the same time I did always notice that they were keeping safe distances.

"So there is creativity to be had, even with the covid19 restrictions of space. So very creative, very promising, looking forward to more.”

Queen’s Hall was very strict with its covid19 protocols, with patrons being asked for their tickets at the gate and then directed to wash their hands and have their temperature checked before entering. Names and contact numbers were also taken.


"Glorious live theatre impresses at Queen’s Hall"

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