I’m afraid I do not agree with the publicity blurb for this play, which claims it can, “touch our heartstrings without them going out of key.”
For this reviewer, this tribute to Vivaldi had too much Boston Pops sweetness. The acting was over-played and pauses in dialogue were achingly prolonged, as if the players were keeping one eye on the mirror throughout the performance.
My major concern was the cardboard-like characterisations; Vivaldi “plopped” from cue to cue like a big, red-haired Jemima doll from Play School, Sister Zita shuffled around with a limp that any extra from Les Miserables would be proud of, Gastarini Darth Vadered around the stage, while Agata was played as a cutesy, starry-eyed Alice in Wonderland. It was difficult to believe in or engage with these characters.
The disappointing lack of character development and simple blocking mistakes (Vivaldi’s room begins with restricted entrance through an imaginery doorway, but soon actors are able to enter and exit the room through any wall they chose) are compensated for by beautiful music and Johanna Allen’s superb voice. She does live up to her “Angel” status.
I agree with writer/director, Sean Riley, that this story is a “scenario too good to ignore” – Vivaldi, working as a priest in a “musical orphanage for girls” in Venice in the 1700s, on the brink of having his music propel him to the status of court composer. All the elements for great drama and music are here. A little more work on the characters would help integrate the narrative with the musical score.