Monteverdi: Flame and Frost

I’ve no idea why this show is called Flame and Frost, but I don’t really mind. It’s a jukebox opera using the music of Monteverdi to tell the story of Narcissus and Echo. It follows operatic conventions, but the story is told entirely through mime as the audience - I was glad to hear - isn’t expected to understand the Italian lyrics.Part of the pleasure of the show lies in recognising the songs and appreciating how they’ve been adapted and used out of context. Old Monty’s tunes have been used for a whole manner of nefarious ends: choral numbers as party scenes, love duets as illicit seductions, and a counter tenor as an excuse to cast a laugh-raking drag queen. The show is also musically stimulating. The harpsichord and theorbo are treated like modern jazz instruments at times, and the unexpected additions of other instruments for various symbolic purposes is very effective.The narrating device is terribly written and adds little to proceedings, but it’s performed beautifully by a trumpet-playing tenor whose voice would be perfectly suited to reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG as a book on tape. He’s a stand out singer too, as are the fabulous soloists in ‘Chiome d’oro’ from the Seventh Book which was adapted as an introduction to the final chorus. Aided and abetted by its narration, the basic story wasn’t communicated very well after the first half of the show, but then no-one in their right minds expects opera to make sense. They do, however, expect it to be constantly entertaining. The director of Flame struggled to fill the time given by the longer songs with interesting action, while the mixed ability of the student cast meant that the music wasn’t a dependable substitute for story as it would normally be in an opera. Nevertheless this show has an interesting concept and some wonderful music, and anyone mad for Monteverdi’s music will enjoy what this lot have made from it.

Reviews by James T. Harding

Pleasance Courtyard

Creatives

★★
Bedlam Theatre

The Duck Pond

★★★★★

The Blurb

These young performers give fresh life to an old classic. The passionate music of Monteverdi heightens an emotional story of love and betrayal, offering a bold new take on the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo.