The Tale of Januarie (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)

Friday 3rd March 2017

We went along to the Silk St theatre at the GSMD to see the 'World Premiere' of this new opera. We were hoping to see our student Michael Vickers (who had sung so nicely at the October banquet) in one of the leads, but found we'd got his pairing (the students often share a role so they can all have a go). The opera was written by GSMD's Prof Julian Philips to a libretto by Stephen Plaice and is based on Chaucer's 'The Merchant's Tale' from his Canterbury Tales collection - to boil 2.5 hours into about ten words: "Old man takes young wife, is cuckolded by his servant and dies". The costumes and sets were Brugelesqe and done to a very high standard, presumably by other students learning their trade; the cast consisted of a large chorus attending twelve soloists but most of it was sung the old man, Januarie, his bride May, and servant/cuckolder Placebo, there was also a non-singing character who wandered around with a wheel barrow containing a massive phallus; and the figure of Death based on the Seven Samurai (I think). The music was very good - I wish I could say I could recall a tune or theme, but I think all modern composers would be offended if you could these days! Had the excellent H.M. Bateman been alive still I'm sure he'd have produced a design entitled along the lines "The Composer who wrote a tune his public could hum" with some poor fellow being laughed and pointed at! At the interval we were invited up to a balcony for a glass of wine/water before returning for the last couple of acts. It ended at 21.45 so not over-long for an opera and it was very enjoyable overall. The Composer joined the cast for a curtain call and then it was all over and we went to find an Uber home..