Emerging Anglo-Welsh composer Lisa Logan’s and David Peimer’s new chamber opera ‘A Silver Spoon: the story of Princess Diana and Dodi’ which premiered 1st of July at the Beaumaris Festival, was a brilliant combination of more traditional songs dealing with love, loss and fear combined with highly original dissonant/edgy music for a pair of petty criminals.
Further, Logan brilliantly evoked the Priest’s lounge (where Diana went to seek counsel to marry Dodi a Muslim). Logan used flashes of Gregorian chant- she then developed this music into her own style of searing tense melodies sung by well known Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams.Logan and Peimer have cleverly created an opera dealing with inter-faith marriage and privilege, through the lens of the iconic Princess Diana’s story with her last lover Dodi al Fayed.
It is a compelling choice to focus an opera on the Diana and Dodi story. Rarely does new opera touch on such controversial, yet contemporary themes with such searingly melodic music. Joanna Gamble is a resolute Queen. Her aria the ‘Queen of Hearts’ reflects on the words ofa Rossetti poem. Peimer cleverly links this poem to her potential feelings around Diana known affectionately as the ‘Queen of Hearts.’ Yet, he sensitively portrays her role as being the rock and belonging to everyone, a fitting tribute in her Platinum Jubilee year.
The biggest roles were those of two petty criminals Jai and Gav, trying to steal Diana’s jewels- an inspired comic plot from Peimer to drive the opera’s storyline. Gav, played by Phil Wilcox was a natural comedian, brilliantly emulating a toff to complex vocal music. His mellow register was most threatening and controlling; his higher register matched a buffoon-like comic tessitura, coloured to suit the hapless wanna-be gangster. One of the best things about the Keynote Opera performance was an opportunity to hear more diverse singers.
Jai sung by Jacob Bettinelli is one to watch- a huge bass-baritone voice, effortlessly pleading with his best friend Gav, in his rounded upper register and whining about his mother in law, with controlled glissandos. Sandeep Gurrapadi’s Dodi was gentle and caring, never arrogant, a light focussed tenor, a sweet emotionally connected upper register that draws you in. Smith’s simple staging was at its best in the Diana and Dodi scenes, tightly directed and the powerful choruses laying flowers. Smith painted many memorable pictures, mirroring the music. The Welsh Chamber Orchestra sounded superb under the baton of WNO veteran, Head of Music emeritus Anthony Hose.
Words By: Ally Summers