A giant production with so much to love
By Narelle Wood
Victorian Opera Youth Opera brand new work, The Selfish Giant – based on the Oscar Wilde short story of the same name – is sure to become a favourite for opera aficionados and newbies alike.
Under the Direction of Cameron Menzies, we follow the story of the giant (Stephen Marsh) as he comes home from an extended trip to find his beloved garden overrun with happily playing children. Scarred from his childhood, and wanting the garden all to himself, the giant scares the children away. The next day Spring (Saffrey Brown) arrives with her fairies (Stephanie Ciantar and Chloe Maree Harris) to wake up the garden, but something is wrong. Soon after Snow (Michael Dimovski), Wind (Noah Ryland) and Frost (Darcy Carroll) arrive with Winter (Olivia Federow-Yemm), looking for a place to call home. Spotting the deserted garden they make themselves at home. After some time has passed, children again find their way back into the garden, prompting the selfish giant to think about sharing. Winter is banished and Spring returns.
Composer Simon Bruckard’s captures the story with dynamic shifts in mood, from the playfulness of the children and the grumpiness of the giant to the sprightly spring and the glacial winter. Some of my favourite moments come from the children playing, where librettist Emma Muir-Smith has managed to capture both the fun-loving and at-times menacing behaviour of children, in a very Oscar Wilde-esque way. There are moments of endearing wit, especially from the Dimovski, Ryland and Carroll whose characters lend themselves to Wilde’s frivolity. I wondered whether there were more moments to capture Wilde’s sardonic wit, especially for the giant.
While James Browne’s set is minimalist, the dimensions and angles of the stage and carefully placed set pieces creates the impression of an imposing house, suitable to contain an imposing giant. Browne’s costumes, however, were one of my favourite things in a production where there was just so much to love. Menzies’ use of props to represent the garden is incredible, as are all the performances. Marsh is endearing as the giant, even when he’s been selfish, and the Youth Chorus and Victorian Opera Chamber Orchestra are faultless in their supporting roles.
Tickets to this world premiere were hard to come by, and it’s easy to see why. This is a charming opera showcasing the immense talent that all of these performers have to offer. The run was short, but hopefully The Selfish Giant will get the revival it deserves.
For more Victorian Opera performances and tickets go to victorianopera.com.au
Photography courtesy of Charlie Kinross