The Food of Love

(Opera Queensland)


Jason Barry-Smith and Narelle French have devised an entertaining and sumptuous banquet of vocal items loosely linked with the theme of amour in their offering The Food of Love. Five soloists including Barry-Smith together with French on the piano and members of the Brisbane Concert Choir conjure up a rich and varied musical feast.

Opera Queensland young artists soprano Janelle Christie, mezzo-soprano Giselle Baulch, tenor Henry Choo and baritone Lee Jae-Hyeok are impressive in their solo and group items.

In developing what may well have been just a series of items, the co-creators have woven a series of amusing characterisations and story-lines, for which their singers and choristers act up well. The production features moments that are variously nostalgic, sad, wistful, joyous and comic, all of which are performed with precision and control.

Among many imaginative approaches, soloists take the string parts of Pachelbel’s “Canon” to the words of Shakespeare’s opening to Twelfth Night, Ïf music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it…”. The production containa many musical treats, including “From the depths of the temple” from The Pearlfishers and the lovely trio “Soave sia il vento” from Cosi fan tutti, as well as Papageno and Papagena’s duet from The Magic Flute.

Barry-Smith and French resisted the obvious temptation with a love theme to include contemporary genres such as servings of 20th century popular music. Yet they have added spices in such forms as the lovely Korean song “Snow” sung by Lee and even some religious works like the “Cantique de Jean Racine” which is absolutely beautifully sung by the choir (the two baritone voices doing very well as anchors).

Comic diversions come from the interpolated Gilbert and Sullivan pieces, including the “Nightmare Song” from Iolanthe. Barry-Smith shows his great gift for patter in his rendition of this tricky piece (and also does a great job with the difficult Purcell piece). Similarly, Henry Choo entertains with his “A tenor can’t do himself justice” from G&S’s Utopia.

The (mainly “mature”) audience relished the program, and some turned out to be repeat customers. It recommends itself as the kind of production which would do well on tour.

— John Henningham
(Performance seen: Thu 29th July 2004)