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Kennet Opera - 1791: Mozart's last year

5th April 2017

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Cream tea with Mozart

An entertaining afternoon in the company of Kennet Opera

Kennet Opera: 1791 Mozart's Last Year, at the United Reformed Church, Hungerford, on Saturday, July 15

Some 50 of us gathered in the United Reformed Church last Saturday tea-time for a "celebration in song and words" of Mozart's final year. Compere for the evening was East End resident Don Crerar, who, in the guise of Emanuel Schikaneder 20 years after Mozart's death, offered reminiscences about his late friend and collaborator. Actor, singer, playwright, impresario and pivotal character in Vienna's stage life, Schikaneder had known Mozart for some 15 years before commissioning him to write the Magic Flute, in which he himself was the first Papageno.

Decked in housecoat and breeches, with wig and make-up at the ready 'Schikaneder' was just preparing to go on stage, when his discovery of us all in his dressing room, unleashed a series of highly-informative, at times almost Proustian apercus, which quite by chance included just about every important event of the composer's last year.

Crerar devised his own text for the show and both the writing and performance were a veritable tour de force, worthy of any front-rank festival or venue – and this on Hungerford High Street.

As part of his warm-up, Schikaneder amused us by gargling with a glass of port, taking some snuff (atchooo!) and with some hilarious pre-show stretching exercises. Crerar deftly wove his compelling collection of anecdotes into a seamless, engaging narrative, the craft of the master raconteur hovering invisibly nearby by at all times.

And every time a piece of music was mentioned, the choir of Kennet Opera, under their energetic music director Benjamin Hamilton swung into action with excerpts from the Requiem and Magic Flute, La Clemenza di Tito and Don Giovanni. Soloists from the choir acquitted themselves well in this music, whose simple lines are notoriously difficult to sing.

The 'orchestra' was provided with great sensitivity by the ever-attentive Christine Evans at the piano. A delicious cream tea in the interval was, please forgive a dreadful pun, the icing on the cake.