tue 23/07/2024

Out of Her Mouth, Dunedin Consort, Mahogany Opera, Hera, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh review - she carried a watermelon | reviews, news & interviews

Out of Her Mouth, Dunedin Consort, Mahogany Opera, Hera, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh review - she carried a watermelon

Out of Her Mouth, Dunedin Consort, Mahogany Opera, Hera, Assembly Roxy, Edinburgh review - she carried a watermelon

Superb storytelling in three semi-staged cantatas by and about women

Alys Mererid Roberts as RachelAlastair More

A joint venture between Dunedin Consort, Mahogany Opera and intersectional feminist opera company Hera, Out of Her Mouth is a semi-staged version of three short baroque cantatas. Written by French composer Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, each is based on a different woman from the Old Testament.

With an updated English libretto from Hera’s co-founder Toria Banks and a quirky staging from director Matthilde Lopez, these timeless tales of women’s experiences are not so much given a fresh relevance as revealed to contain age-old truths which are always pertinent, whether they be told through modern production, baroque opera or biblical narrative. Anna DennisThere’s much use made of watermelons as props. I think they serve as a metaphor for flesh, though to be honest their purpose was sometimes lost on me. Still, it’s good to see the cast getting their five a day, and watching Anna Dennis (pictured above) and Carolyn Sampson smash a watermelon to bits with a baseball bat will never be anything but entertaining, even for the front-row audience members who were splashed in the face. (For those concerned, a plastic sheet was held up to protect the period instruments.)

Brilliantly bonkers production aside, musically this was excellent. Anna Dennis was exquisite in the role of Susanna, capturing the innocence and indignation of the young girl spied upon while bathing by two older men. Young Welsh soprano Alys Mererid Roberts sang the role of Rachel with a light, clear tone, and gave a poignant portrayal of the little considered perspective of Rachel, who’s used as a bargaining chip by her father in the book of Genesis. Carolyn SampsonCarolyn Sampson (pictured above) is a commanding Judith, who, in the apocryphal book of the same name uses the little power she has as a woman to deceive the commander of an invading army, ultimately beheading him and displaying his severed head on the city walls. Sampson’s conveying of the vengeance, power, shock and grief experienced by this complex figure was palpable, resulting in several audible gasps at the end of her final scene. Harpsichordist Katarzyna Kowalik, with a trio of players from Dunedin Consort, moved the music along with a sparkling buoyancy, and synergy between instrumentalists and singers was secure and sensitive.

This is definitely a production which is trying to be clever, though most of the time it does succeed in this aim. It’s unusual, that’s for sure, and quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. Catch it in York or London if you can, even if it’s only for the watermelons.

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