Modern opera Another Lament engages and delights
THERE’S a brilliantly impish wit bubbling under
the surface of this remarkable little opus that is
neither ostentatious nor self-conscious. It’s so subtle
that it might go unnoticed by a lazy theatregoer.
Like alluvial gold, it must be shovelled and panned
That said, Another Lament is so engaging, visually and
musically, one could leave it delighted and satisfied
without so much as cracking its surface.
Danish-born singer and contrabass player Ida Duelund
Hansen has taken a handful of pieces by 17th Century
English composer Henry Purcell – arias from Dido and
Aeneas, The Fairy-Queen and King Arthur, a setting of
a poems by John Dryden and Katherine Philips and a
hymn – and worked them into a thoroughly modern
piece about neglected wives and dead husbands. About
the fire of love and the ice of “til death do us part”.
The willowy Hansen is an accomplished and imaginative musician, and a good physical performer with
a passable soprano. Any expectations of a recital-style performance, however, are dashed in the
opening seconds: a few words into Dido’s famous lament – “When I am laid in earth” – a doorbell
sounds off stage. It’s not fate calling, it’s Avon. And she goes unanswered.
There’s a quite wondrous assurance about this show that inspires a relaxed confidence from its
audience from beginning to end, a little less than an hour later. We watch, rapt, as Hansen lowers her
instrument Pieta-like. She plucks strings below the bridge, uses the lower bout of the instrument like
a oiuja board (with a teacup) then uses her bow on the tailpiece.
Though there are several moments of inspired verbal and physical comedy – Hansen using the navel
of a man as an endpin stopper for her instrument is but one – Another Lament doesn’t belittle Purcell’s
music or take the mickey out of his unexplained and premature demise. (Like Bon Scott, Purcell
might have died of exposure after being locked out of his home. Also like Scott, Purcell was in his
30s when he died.)
Hansen’s creation is enhanced and beautifully framed by Kate Sulan’s direction, her creative team
(especially designer Emily Barrie and soundscape artist Jethro Woodward), and the wonderfully
enigmatic presence of a squad of performers from rawcus, an ensemble of performers with and
without disabilities. Their contributions are literal without being in any way reductive.
This is one of those rare shows that will satisfy both novice theatregoers and musical trainspotters.
CHRIS BOYD THE AUSTRALIAN JUNE 07, 2012