Orrore! Orrore!

Letter M


That’s what Paolo (Warwick Fyfe in Opera Australia’s production) says in Simon Boccanegra when he is forced to curse himself.

It’s also what I thought when I went tonight for the third time and saw a replacement cast sheet for not one artist (Natalie Aroyan) as expected but two.  The second slot was for Michael Honeyman, replacing George Petean in the title role.

I confess I had wondered, when I contemplated the three performances (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) in a row how Petean would manage.  It’s a big sing  – and there will have been a dress rehearsal not far behind that as well.

The lot of an understudy/cover can be a thankless one.  After the initial disappointment, Michael Honeyman grew on me.  He couldn’t match Petean’s gasp-inducing stage fall at the end, and he was better at the stentorian moments than the lyrical, but he deserved the warm reception he received at the end.

Amusingly, the poisoned glass was broken when Diego Torres sank an impassioned dagger into the table on which it awaited Boccanegra after being baited by Paolo (Fyfe) and fell to the floor. Mr Honeyman had to come in with a fresh glass. Properly, this should have called for a total rewrite of the ending of the opera.

In the pit, there was also a bit of covering going on: Katherine Lukey and Catalin Ungureanu stepped up to the front violin desks instead of Jun Yi Ma and Huy-Nguyen Bui.  (There had been a matinee performance of Così.)  I don’t know if it was a coincidence or a matter of third-time lucky/better, but the first violins definitely made a better fist of the moment extracted above than in the first two performances.

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