I saw the premiere performance of James Bond: A Convenient Lie (Opera in Pasticcio), a collaboration between Malfi Productions and Manosinistra Lyric Workshops. I don’t know either group, only that I shared a press release on this blog a little while ago, and tonight went to check out the show.
It’s a bit of a parody. They take familiar tunes but insert new words, and so a big part of the charm comes in hearing the old tune done a new way. I’ve never seen the Queen of the Night not only hit her high notes but do martial arts at the same time. But this was not the Queen of the Night, it was the aptly named Ample Bliss, wonderfully portrayed by Holly Chaplin. The angry tune (“Der Hölle Rache”) is a natural for gun-play, so we had that too.
Kyle McDonald is responsible for the libretto, which really means he conceived of the adaptation. Of course he plays James Bond (doesn’t everyone want to do that?). His enemy “The Naturalist” is played by baritone Stuart Graham.
As both are low voiced males, McDonald had to plunder scenes from opera featuring low voices. And so we hear the scene from Don Carlos where Philip faces the Grand Inquisitor, except this time it’s James Bond facing an arch-villain. Or we get the scene where Don Giovanni is dragged to hell, except this time it’s James Bond plus his new soprano conquest Bliss (she’s no longer trying to kill him but instead fights alongside as an ally), as they both struggle with a big guy named “Tiny”.
YMMV, or in other words, some jokes are funnier than others. I love that McDonald tried this, a worthwhile effort. I wish there had been surtitles as I am pretty sure I missed some funny lines, that I couldn’t quite make out. Even so McDonald came up with a few good ones, for instance rhyming (if I remember it right) “I’m James Bond, I’m an agent don’t be nervous” with “I’m an agent on her Majesty’s Secret Service” sung to the tune of “Non più andrai” from Nozze di Figaro. Later we hear McDonald take on the single best known sexy swagger song, namely the Toreador Song. “Toreador” becomes “Double Oh Seven…”
There are several splendid moments, both from the standpoint of musical highlights or comedy. I loved the railroad tracks chase, complete with mimed trains portrayed by the chorus zipping back and forth—and a car-chase, again with the help of lots of creative movement.
Accomplices in this caper include Constantine Meglis as Tiny, who sang a menacing “La vendetta”, reframed as a threatening song, Rocco Rupolo, who sang a take-off of “la donne e mobile” (can’t recall the new lyrics, sorry…although as I recall McDonald gave him an awkward word on which to ascend to the high B, and Rupolo got there anyway), Diego Catala, singing a wonderful “largo al factotum”, as Q talking about all the great gadgets he’d make for James Bond, and Alexandra Harris aptly under-estimated and never properly exploited as Moneypenny: precisely as happens in every Bond film. Sasha Bult-Ito and Gregory Almay were the compact orchestra in support of the production & its comedy.
I hope McDonald tries this again.