The Goose of Cairo – what a ridiculous name for an opera – and what a ridiculous plot it turned out to be even by operatic standards! Stephen Oliver’s completion of Mozart’s unfinished opera The Goose of Cairo (L’oca del Caïro) received its British premiere by the London Mozart Players and guests on Thursday 14th April 2016 at St John’s Smith Square conducted by the David Parry.
The plot has Don Pippo as a collector of rarities. His wife had disappeared and was assumed dead but to ensure that his daughter might not disappear in the same way, he has locked her up in a tower with another girl for company. In true operatic style both girls have lovers and Don Pippo has a bet with the men that they can’t get the girls out within a year. On the last day of the year matters are complicated by another proposal his daughter has from a stranger, Count Lionetto. Pippo wants her to accept, because Lionetto is offering a famous golden goose that belonged to Cleopatra (the Cairo goose) but the girls’ lovers set out to capture the goose and bargain for the girls’ release.
Complete nonsense of course but Mozart’s music is sublime so Stephen Oliver, genius that he was, created a version that is more than just a completion of Mozart’s opera of the same title. He extended it and modified it slightly so that all of Mozart’s music is used and his own music is written within Mozart’s own orchestration. The final work is astonishing and shocking and Oliver’s own music – often dark and foreboding – lies in contrast to Mozart’s flamboyant brilliance.
The cast of singers was outstanding and included Fflur Wyn, Soraya Mafi, Ellie Laugharne, Victoria Symmonds (standing in at the last minute for the indisposed Diana Montague) Robert Murray, Christopher Diffey, Alexander Baker and Quirijn de Lang.
Staging this opera was an act of bravery by the LMP management team. We discussed its merits, baulked at the cost, worried about the ‘modernity’ of the music compared to our usual emphasis on the classical period and realised that this was a huge undertaking, artistically and financially, at a time when the orchestra was still completing its ‘transition’ to a self-governed orchestra.
Only a homemade recording existed of the work and the score and parts had to be completely recopied. On top of all this our wonderful Marketing / PR team of Cat and Fiona had to ‘sell’ a completely unknown work – part Mozart, part ‘modern’ Oliver – to a public that wouldn’t have any idea what to expect! The beautiful golden goose that was the centrepiece of our operatic props was handmade by Cat – a brilliant piece of work in itself and an indication of the dedication our team gave to the task of making this performance happen.
The Goose was a fabulous team effort by Jenny Brady, Sara Gale, Martin Sargeson, David Wilson and Julia Desbruslais who not only led to admin team for the opera but performed as co-principal cello. Thanks to the artistic team of Sebastian Comberti, Martin Smith and David Angel for their bravery in giving this wonderful project the thumbs up.
Our conductor, David Parry, was superb throughout. His knowledge of opera, his experience and his professionalism with singers and orchestra alike enabled all the musicians to focus and give of their best. He conducted the world premiere of the Mozart / Oliver version at the Batignano Festival in Italy in 1990 and so was familiar with the work.
The London Mozart Players excelled in the performance with particular notable contributions from Lesley Hatfield (leader) and Anna Hashimoto (clarinet) who both made light work of fiendishly difficult cadenzas and solos along with some lovely horn solos by Caroline O’Connell. The performance was enthusiastically received and a wonderful start to our new LMP ‘brand – LMP Opera.
You can read a great review here by Rupert Christiansen from The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opera/what-to-see/loca-del-cairo-st-johns-smith-square-review/