The Nightingale and Other Fables

From one point of view this production of The Nightingale and Other Fables was a success. The orchestra, conducted by Alejo Pérez, in all its various combinations, was in fine fettle. The singers, were also uniformly excellent, although I would like to make special mention of Meredith Arwady, and Yuliya Pogrebnyak in the first half, and Yuliia Zasimova who sang the role of the Nightingale. Dean Newcomb in his three clarinet solos was a sheer delight.  Ragtime which was the first music number played reminded me of Gershwin, and heralded to all that the music was going to be accessible. In fact Stravinsky has been quoted as saying  after the first performance of The Nightingale that: ‘The premiere of Rossignol was not a success, in the sense that it did not provoke a scandal’.

There were skilled puppeteers and clever hand shadow play.  Robert Lepage in the Director’s note wrote:  ‘Puppetry pulled the poetry out of the libretto and the poetic ideas out of the music in a way I hadn’t seen before.’

There were acrobats who created the most extraordinary images, and a sunken lake in the orchestra pit, while the orchestra took centre stage (literally). The costume designer Mara Gottler, had created exotic robes and a dramatic Death, along with costumes fitting a group of peasants in the first half, in keeping with the Other Fables.

From another point of view, with all the wizardry; the action on stage which was to highlight the poetry, was the essence of the opera overshadowed? The Nightingale has been described as an allegory in which the seduction of falsity is against truth and beauty. Was this suggested?

The musicologist Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi ,who knew Stravinsky  personally, wrote in 1914 that ‘Mr Stravinsky indeed among all the musicians of today is one of the best endowed for dramatic music’, despite his initial reluctance to write for both words and movement together. Was The Nightingale further enhanced by puppets and acrobats, or would the message of the opera, through the libretto and the impressionistic colours of Stravinsky’s music have reached the audience in a different way?

Robert Lepage is a world renown director. There should be no disagreement with his quest for finding innovative and original ways to present opera. We do not want a procession of tired traditional productions simply because that is the way they have always been done. But I did come away from this event feeling that I had seen a brilliant production, and heard some lovely music, but I had not seen an opera.

Festival Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre

Fri 1 March- Wed. 6 March

photo image by Andrew Beveridge

Help Support 5mbs

We have a fantastic team of members and volunteers at 5mbs, with many opportunities for more. Check out the various ways you can help support the passionate team at 5mbs

Subscribe for updates

Sign up to receive program guides, articles, and event updates