★★★★★ A testament to the vivacity of Australian music culture.

To those familiar with the arcana of Sydney topography, the word “Pinchgut” is synonymous with Fort Denison, since the original name of the fort was “Pinchgut Island”. For music lovers, the name is evocative of an opera company that rediscovers gems of the Baroque and early Classical operatic oeuvre. Pinchgut Opera’s production of the French composer André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry’s L’Amant Jaloux was brilliantly choreographed, sung and staged, while the Orchestra of the Antipodes generated a fresh, crisp sound led by the inimitable Erin Helyard who conducted the orchestra from the keyboard.

It is easy to hear the influence of Grétry on the young Mozart (it has been asserted that Mozart and his librettist da Ponte were familiar with Grétry’s operas). Indeed, many of L’Amant’s arias and orchestral lines could easily have been plucked out of Figaro or Così Fan Tutte. The narrative of the opera is typically French despite its Spanish setting: characters desperately fall in and out of love; soldiers serenade loved ones; fussy maids stir up trouble at delicate moments; identities are mistaken which only heightens amorous jealousy; and a patriarch frets over the financial ramifications of his children’s (re)marriage. David Fleischer’s set design, with its doors, nooks and crannies allowed the melodrama to majestically and comically unfold.

An interesting addition to the performance was the use of English dialogue by Andrew Johnston. This made the opera very accessible, and the wittiness of the dialogue was enhanced by the genuinely amusing acting. The singing itself was tremendous, with the romantic exchange between Don Alonze (Ed Lyon) and Léonore (Celeste Lazarenko) particular highlights. Andrew Goodwin captured Florival’s desperation and honour, with the aria Tandis que tout sommeille at once hilarious and beautiful, while the voice of Alexandra Oomens as Isabelle was penetrating and touching, as in the duet Je sens bien que votre hommage. The opening exchanges between the grandiose Don Lopez (David Greco) and the fusspot Jacinte (Jessica Aszodi) were highly entertaining. Greco’s voice was deep and pure throughout which gave much gravitas to the Don.

David Greco (Lopez) and Jessica Aszodi (Jacinte) © Prudence Upton

A delight of the performance was the inclusion of two entr’actes, a work by Hummel with Stephen Lalor on mandolin, and a Flute Concerto by Grétry himself, performed by Melissa Farrow on baroque flute. These provided temporary respite from the machinations of the lovers, while being moving in their own right.

The whole concert had a touchingly Australian feel, perhaps owing to the name of the company, perhaps to the snippets of Aussie accents throughout the dialogue, or perhaps to the knowledge that the performance boasted an orchestra and a cast of singers all of whom are extremely talented Australian musicians. The success of this performance (the concert hall was packed) is testament to the vivacity of Australian music culture, which continues to lead the way in quality and novelty. This is a performance that should not be missed!

L’Amant Jaloux runs till December 8 at City Recital Hall