Trent Opera closed the competitive aspect of the Light Opera Festival part of the Waterford International Music Festival to celebrate the Opera Festival’s 50th year with an Andrew Nicklin production of Sweeney Todd and sadly cut their own theatrical throat in the process.
Much was expected of this company and this reputation was dented by an almost lack lustre, under rehearsed production that lacked the emotional power necessary to drive this slasher opera along. An unwieldy stage design of too large and obdurate two level Sweeney’s shop got stranded in blackouts and from the patchy lighting it was obvious it was often out of position. A lack of masking of the background enabled the audience to see backstage glitches and miscues in the movement, the chorus mostly lacked power and at times the orchestra slowed and lost its vigour and sharpness.
Any credit that was left was due to some central performer who sweated blood to continue and kept disciplined. Mark Pollard was a fine Tobias Ragg and Joan Self was a witty and wicked Mrs Lovett. Andrew McPhee was upstaged by his prosthetic Nanny McFee nose but he did ooze evil at times. Colin Dawes was vocally strong as Anthony Hope and Charlotte Clement was a beautiful Johanna . Stephen Godward was magnificent as the corrupt judge and Simon Theobald was a towering presence with attack, in-your-face-passion and brooding vengeful madness as Sweeney Todd.
The danger and disappointment signs were obvious with the start delayed by ten minutes and similarly at the beginning of the second act. Live theatre can have its problems and perhaps Trent Opera were too over-confident in their approach to this event.
Tony Finnegan, the adjudicator, said it was an untidy evening with untidy musical aspects and a slow clumsy set. He said it was a concept that didn’t work and in part under rehearsed. He praised the principal performers but left the audience and no doubt the company deeply disappointed.