October 15th, 2004

Skylight Opera, "Abduction From the Seraglio," Oct 10.

We figured that the day after the big party we wouldn't be good for anything except sitting and letting ourselves be entertained, so we had planned ahead by treating ourselves to tickets for the Skylight Opera's production of "The Abduction from the Seraglio," by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As with all Skylight shows, the piece was sung in English, and this production was further updated into the 1940's with a distinct "Casablanca" feel. Belmonte, son of a wealty westerner, has come seeking his fiance, Constanza, whose ship was captured by pirates, and she and her servants sold into slavery. In the Skylight version, Pasha Selim, into whose hands they have fallen, is a white slaver and master of a criminal empire. Selim has fallen in love with Constanza and seeks to woo her into returning his ardor rather than forcing her. We thought that the stark concrete-looking sets and moody lighting aided the adaptation and the whole worked quite well. The English translation of the libretto was not terribly witty, but the comedy of this lightest of Mozart's operas was carried well by the comic acting and expressive singing of Robert Swan as Osmin, the Pasha's chief henchman, and the servant couple, Kurt Alakulppi as Pedrillo and Donna Smith as Blonda. The passionate side was well supported by Kathy Pyeatt as Constanza, Robert Gagnon as Belmonte, and Michael DiPadova as Selim in a very effective although non-singing role.

All in all the singing was as good as any we have heard at the Skylight. Pyeatt has a full, gorgeous voice and definitely lead the cast as Constanza. All of the singers were excellent, and we were especially impressed with Donna Smith, whose Blonda delivers a drubbing disguised as a vigorous Swedish massage to the letcherous Osmin without wavering in tone, pitch, or volume.

Unlike some recent Skylight shows, the production had a very coherent feel, with lovely period costumes and props, complete to the antique cameras and voice recording instruments sported by the 'reporters' who are part of the chorus. Thanks to Director Jon Kretzu, costumes by Stacey Galloway, and set by Takeshi Kata. Conductor Pasquale Laurino lead the orchestra flawlessly.

"Bright Young Things," Oct.13

Wednesday the 13th was the our last chance to catch Stephen Fry's movie, "Bright Young Things" before it left town, so we dashed out on impulse to see it, and were glad we had. Fry has shown himself to be a fine actor and a sucessful novellist, and now shows good strength as a screenwriter and director. The script is Fry's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies". Never having read the original, I cannot testify as to the faithfulness of the adaptation, but I can say that the screenplay is tightly written, clever, and very witty both in word and in action. The minimal plot deals with the far-from-smooth course of the love between aspiring writer Adam Fenwick-Symes (Waugh's viewpoint character), played by Stephen Campbell Moore, and Nina Blount (Emily Mortimer, daughter of "Rumpole" author John Mortimer). They lead a cast of attractive but not unbelievably beautiful young people during the last burst of upper-class twitness and desperate hilarity just before the outbreak of World War II. The young folks are supported by some very able older actors, notably Jim Broadbent (who, playing a character known only as "The Drunken Major", plays more stages of inebriation, ranging from mildly lit to blotto, with more nuance than anyone I've ever seen), and Stockard Channing playing an American evangelist. Some writers question the inclusion of Dan Akroyd as "Lord Monomark," but that is appropriate since the character he is playing, based loosely on the historical Lord Beaverbrook, was Canadian, as is Akroyd.

The film is just full of delightful visual references and scenes, especially the sequence wherein Fenella Woolgar as Agatha comes down to breakfast with the Prime Minister's family still in her fancy dress from the night before's wild party, and another one in which she is pressed into service as an alternate race car driver, despite being high on champagne and cocaine. Her expression is as absolutely "Mr. Toad" as a human can achieve (excepting only Terry Jones, who IS Mr. Toad--).

The film winds to its bittersweet conclusion through an expectable series of tragedies that overtake the bright young things one by one--dead, mad, banished--which could have made a Shakespearian tragedy in other hands,(and indeed were the suff of real life tragedies of Waugh's times)were it not for Waugh's irony and Fry's wit. We enjoyed the movie immensely.

Curiously enough, at this film we saw a trailer for another new movie called "Head in the Clouds," which seems to have a very similar theme, but played straight and with very beautiful people (Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz and Stewart Townsend) which does not seem half as interesting.