Beatrice and Benedict

Date 18th February 2017
Society Bath Opera
Venue Wroughton Theatre, Bath
Type of Production Opera
Director Neil Kirkman
Musical Director Peter Blackwood


Author: Dee Way

Neil Kirkman’s direction and design of the opera showed excellent planning. The multipurpose gazebo – with candleholders - and benches were lovely touches, and the use of the washing lines and pegs to hang up bunting was very good. The flag holders upstage were very neat and gave a good effect, while the message about the end of the war being transported by hot air balloon was very creative. The production brought out the humour of the script very well. I liked the opening sequence of the cast acting as gardeners and servants, nobility and villagers.  Everyone had a role and they were all played well.

The scenery was very attractive, with a gazebo centre stage with a swing in the centre, decorated with roses. The backdrop of the green garden scene was lovely, although I wondered if that was realistically Sicily in 1804. Two garden benches downstage formed good positions for the overhearing of conversations and were well used. The washing on the washing lines, the mock trees that were later clipped and the green blocks near the audience were very effective and set the scene well for the story.

The lighting was very good. The effects of sunny days and moonlit nights were beautifully created and the changes between scenes were subtle yet clear. The moon shining on the cloth was very effective.

The music was well performed, under the baton of Peter Blackwood. It was nice to have the orchestra in front of the stage, where the audience could watch the players during the instrumental interludes. This positioning also encouraged the singers to face forward much of the time, in order to watch the conductor, to good effect. The level of the music was very well controlled, to enable the singers to be heard easily and clearly, yet swelling in instrumental passages to very good effect. The blend of voices in the duets and the ladies trio were lovely!

The costumes were good, especially for the peasant girls and soldiers. However, a couple of dresses seemed rather English in style.  However, the clothes were bright and cheerful, and appropriate on the whole. Benedict’s jacket was well used, at one time, to indicate Beatrice’s emotions.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable evening of theatre, with good music, lighting, costumes and set. The singing was very good and the characterisation of the various roles was excellent. The balance between characters was well done, and the image of the returning army was reminiscent of ‘Les Miserables’ with the flag and bunting used so well. This was a very well devised and successful production that was very much enjoyed by the audience. The team work involved in creating such a good show must have been remarkable – and it all worked very well.