Presented as part of the Boston University College of Fine Arts Fringe Festival
Based on the novel by Gordon Honeycombe
Composed by Jonathan Dove
Libretto by Nick Dear
Stage direction Jim Petosa
Conducted by William Lumpkin
More Fringe Works
Dark Sisters playing Oct. 11 – 12, 2013
Back Bog Beast Bait playing Oct. 22-27, 2013
Review by Kitty Drexel
**Not suitable for kids. Sex is for grownups.**
(Boston) In Homer’s The Odyssey the sirens were mermaid-like creatures with a voice so intoxicating that sailor’s ships crashed into land. Outdated slang defines a women so gorgeous that she drives sanity from the minds of men. Jonathan Dove and Nick Dear’s opera combines the myth of olde with the modernized definition in their rarely performed work, Siren Song.
Davey Palmer (Jordan Weatherston) is an officer in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. He is a lonely man who corresponds with a young woman, Diana (Katherine Peck), through an advert he found in the Penny Saver. What begins as simple conversation grows into a passionate love affair. Davey begins a strong friendship with Jonathan (Benjamin Taylor), her brother, when Diana frequently fails to attend arranged meetings. All seems to be well for the under-sexed sailor until the Navy accuses him of having a romantic affair with Jonathan.
The opera itself is glorious and the voices of the cast lend extra beauty to the performance. There were very few moments when the acting of the cast did not match the drama written into the orchestration. Yet, on at least two occasions the orchestra crescendo-ed into an explosion of foreshadowed doom and the faces on the stage were blank.
Weatherston plays Davey as a sad sack with an honesty that is apparent on the stage and in his voice. Davey’s unfathomable gullibility is believable because Weatherston lends his character depth that is matched by the orchestration but not accounted for in the libretto. His diction is excellent.
Taylor imbues Jonathan with a subtle charisma that expresses a gentle homoerotic tension in his scenes with Weatherston. The two were pleasant to watch on the stage even when as the disastrous outcome of their relationship became obvious.
The least satisfying component of Siren Song is its lack of female characters. Peck has a strong voice, lovely figure, and Siren Song is lucky to have her. But. In an age when sopranos and mezzos are chomping at the bit for roles, it is inexcusable that there is only one soprano needed in this opera. Yes, Siren Song was composed in 1994 and based on a book written in 1992. That does not mean it is impossible to update the libretto and score to accommodate the artists at hand. It was a consolation, albeit a small one, that the chamber orchestra was comprised mostly of women.
Siren Song is about a man who so strongly in love that he deludes himself into believing the impossible. It does not have a happy ending. It also runs long. Dove and Dear, rather than trust that their audience understands that Davey is being manipulated, beat a dead horse. Jonathan and Davey go on trips. They shop. Davey even talks on the phone with “Diana” even though Jonathan is there to say the hellos and goodbyes. The audience knew that Jonathan was conning Davey almost as soon as Jonathan appeared. Yet, Dove and Dear continue to remind the audience over and over and over that Davey has no chance at happiness. The performances were excellent but the opera was depressing.