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News: Victorian Opera – Lorelei

by Heather Leviston

If you missed the boat in 2018 don’t despair – Lorelei is back this month, and it looks as though it won’t be foundering on the COVID-19 rocks. Word spread so quickly when the three sirens first made their enticing appearance that it became impossible to book a passage towards the end of the season. Now, they’re back.

Of the many musical and theatre events I attended that year, Lorelei would have easily rated in my top five experiences. On every level it was first class. For the discerning, it came as no surprise that Lorelei attracted several Green Room Awards. It is worth having a look at Ali McGregor’s (open) Facebook page. Soprano and cabaret star, she is one of the alluring trio and initiator of the project. She responded to the gong with: “I know awards mean nothing but the fact that Lorelei has been nominated for six Green Room awards fills me with so much pride. Especially that in three of those categories: production, design and direction we are nominated against only one other remarkable production – Opera Australia’s Meistersingers of Nuremberg. A HUGE production. And us – the little show with a completely Aussie cast, creatives and crew. This is a big thing. And it’s a good thing. It can be done!!” Well said, Ali McGregor.

It is something of an irony that Lorelei was up against a Wagner opera given the provenance of the story. In his 1801 ballad, Clemens Brentano tells of the beautiful Lore Lay who, betrayed by her lover and unjustly accused of bewitching men, falls to her death in the Rhine from the rock which bears her name. Heinrich Heine developed his idea to depict a female who distracts sailors with her beauty and song, causing them to die when their ships crash on the rocks below. In Victorian Opera’s version, the three Lorelei have a crisis of conscience, wondering whether this relentless destruction should continue. Should they keep singing to their doom those complicit in an oppressive patriarchal society?

Ali McGregor brought an impressive team together for Lorelei: Casey Bennetto (Keating! The Musical) and Gillian Cosgriff (8 Songs in 8 Weeks), who wrote the witty, incisive libretto; Julian Langdon (Seven Deadly Sins), composer of an appealing blend of tango, pop, and classical music; set and costume designer Marg Horwell; lighting designer Paul Jackson; sound designer Paul Jackson; and Sarah Giles, who continues as director.

As can be seen from the photographs, Marg Horwell’s costumes are characters in their own right. They are metaphorically very much integral to the story as well as providing some of the most hilarious opportunities for the three divas to display their comedic talents. They have a ball. As Horwell explains, “Each Lorelei wears a costume inspired by runway collections from major international fashion houses. Dimity Shepherd’s dress is based on the most recent collection from Italian designer Giambattista Valli, which featured excessively romantic gowns with acres of tulle. Ali McGregor’s costume is a homage to Alexander McQueen and Antoinette Halloran’s gown takes inspiration from the disproportionate shoulder looks of Viktor&Rolf. The costumes are a trap within a trap, another impediment, another way of trapping yourself on the rock.”

While it is definitely for a mature audience, Victorian Opera justifiably spruiks this Operatic Cabaret as: “With its lush score, spectacular costumes and 75-minute runtime, Lorelei is the perfect opera for first timers and lovers of cabaret and music theatre alike. Their siren song is to die for, don’t miss the boat!” I cannot recommend Lorelei highly enough.

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Lorelei will be performed without an interval at the Palais Theatre, St Kilda on June 29 and 30, and July 1 and 2, at 7.30pm. It will be sung in English with surtitles. As per government guidelines masks must be carried at all times. Masks must be worn indoors, including during a performance.

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