The Cockpit Theatre
Reviewed – 12th September 2020
“holds the attention effortlessly for 60 minutes”
This one man opera, based on John Milton’s magnificent epic poem, and produced as part of a socially distanced live performance series at the Cockpit Theatre, is sufficient temptation to lure anyone out of self-imposed isolation. But if you are in quarantine, don’t worry. The 2020 Tête à Tête Opera Festival at the Cockpit Theatre is also offering an interactive broadcasts online, with the added bonus of “meeting” with the artists afterwards to ask questions and share thoughts.
Lawrence Zazzo, acclaimed countertenor, and composer and pianist Geoff Page, do not disappoint in this adaptation of Paradise Lost, despite what must be their disappointment at having to perform to such a reduced audience. Zazzo, acclaimed as the “Maserati” of countertenors, holds the attention effortlessly for 60 minutes, and fans of the countertenor’s voice will appreciate his range. His mastery of the upper register notes are just as compelling as the lower. For a role such as Lucifer to be convincing, the artist really does need to be able to evoke celestial sweetness as well as the deeper, more sinister notes of a fallen angel. Pianist Page is likewise an accomplished musician whose technique provides a vigorous counterpoint to Zazzo’s vocal acrobatics. The only criticism that could be made of this pared down production is the lighting, reduced to single spots of changing colour on Zazzo. These are not always sufficient illumination. Paradise Lost may begin in hell, but should the proceedings be shrouded in diabolical gloom?
Since Milton’s Paradise Lost is an extremely long poem, and contains a multitude of characters, Page wisely confines his version to focusing on the character of Lucifer. The story of this Paradise Lost, then, is about the archangel who rebels against God, and who falls from heaven to become Satan, lord of hell. As Satan, he tempts Adam and Eve, the first humans. He transforms into a beguiling serpent who tricks Eve and Adam into tasting the forbidden fruit that brings knowledge, but also expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Page makes much of dissonance in the music to portray this story, and the overall effect is memorable—and haunting. The combination of Zazzo’s voice and Page’s piano works well for the most part, although there are moments that have both pianist and vocalist battling for supremacy.
Paradise Lost is an ambitious addition to the Tête à Tête Opera Festival’s declared intent to “share ideas and visions for the future of opera, art, and our world.” Catch it online, if you can’t catch it live.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Claire Shovelton
The Cockpit Theatre as part of Tête à Tête Opera Festival 2020 also available online
Previously reviewed by Dominica: