Grimeborn Festival 2014: The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti
Operaview has created a small and intense production in which Menotti’s music comes across clearly: a ravishing piano accompaniment, played by Maite Aguirre, veers from schmaltzy sweetness, reminiscent of a silent film score, to bursts of plunging malevolence. […] All the singing is strong, particularly from the gorgeously-voiced Phoebe-Celeste Humphreys as Mrs Gobineau, and from Julia Sitkovetsky as a lustrously attractive Monica. Sitkovetsky draws a movingly accurate portrait of a loving daughter living with an alcoholic parent, constantly negotiating every changing mood, hopelessly desperate to absorb the tension, hide each problem and control what will happen next. Monica’s treatment of Toby, somewhere disturbingly between a kid brother, a best friend and a lover, is exploitative and selfish, yet we do feel that, in a blinkered adolescent way, she truly loves him.
Toby, a mute character played by Patrick Holt, is acutely well-drawn, the right mixture of innocent assurance and terrible vulnerability; there is nothing so bewitching in opera as a character who is deliberately silent, and while it is a considerable test of acting, Holt rose to the challenge faultlessly. One of the most interesting aspects of Toby is that no one, including the audience, can ever be quite certain of how sane or conscious he is: Holt gave us some thrilling clues, yet kept the character intriguingly (and aptly) opaque. The inclusion of the aerialist Kahless Giles slightly mystified me in Act I, where (although intriguing and impressive to watch) he did not seem to contribute anything coherent to the action, but all was justified in Act II when he became Toby’s puppet and bird to charm Monica, in a sequence of movement which was quite brilliantly choreographed.