|Patricia Schuman as the Duchess of Argyll|
THE NOTORIOUS SOCIALITE No doubt, an opera for mature audiences, the most explicit scenes are handled with clever theatrical ploys that suggest rather than show the explicit insatiable sexual acts of the notorious British Socialite. Much to the credit of the director and scenic designer props hide one of the sex acts behind a lush lipstick red sofa, but it is obvious to the audience what is going on. The Duchess may have bedded in real life as many as eighty-eight men; royals, politicians and celebrities but in her promiscuous desires she even stoops to conquer the hotel porter.
|The Duchess in the Luxury Hotel|
THE LIBRETTO Much of his credit Philip Hensher’s libretto is based on the notorious life of Britain’s so-called “Dirty Duchess.” The opera unravels the Duchess’ exploits to her final demise, forgotten, unloved and unable to pay her bills, living alone in a luxury hotel she cannot afford. The Duchess is best remembered for her divorce case against her second husband, the 11th Duke of Argyll, which featured salacious photographs and scandalous stories about her exploits which plays out at the end of the opera. Ben Wager’s Duke, Hotel Manger and Magistrate roles are play acted and sung most engagingly, particularly in the bedroom scene with his mistress, where his convincing portrayal of the Duke and his rich baritone take total command of the situation . As for Christopher Tiesi and Ashley Emerson their multi-tasking roles are pure genius with energetic dexterity and utterly convincing character changes.
At the Perelman Theater at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, performed in English with English subtitles. Operaphila.org or 215.893.1018.
Polly Guerin Author: 7th Book: Cooper-Hewitt Dynasty of New York (History Press 2012) Board Member: Giulio Gari Opera Foundation