Music, Stage

The Ringtone Cycle review (Melbourne Recital Centre)

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If you were lucky enough to get them, tickets to Opera Australia’s $20 million Ring Cycle would’ve set you back $1000 to $2000 each. Who said opera was only for the super-rich? Those in charge at our ‘national opera company’ wouldn’t be under the illusion that the Cycle is an inclusive event, so in the interest of reaching wider audiences and being more accessible, they’re presenting the Ring Festival.
Composer Graeme Koehne and lyricist Peter Goldsworthy’s The Ringtone Cycle is a work where opera meets cabaret meets internet dating. Part of the Ring Festival, it follows a 30-something woman cheekily named Brunnhilde (soprano Lisa Harper-Brown) as she embarks upon a journey through cyberspace in her bid to find the perfect partner. She soon finds that finding love online isn’t as easy as it first seemed, and though there might be plenty of fish in that sea, none of the ones she wants are swimming her way.
As Brunnhilde, Lisa Harper-Brown is in strong voice and brave enough to show us the character’s ugly, desperate moments. She doesn’t have a completely natural knack for comedy, but she draws the character clearly and manages to be quite touching in the show’s final moments.
The lyrics are occasionally insightful, and there’s a good laugh or two in there, but too many of the gags just are just pop culture references that don’t necessarily add a great deal. There’s also a few too many clichés, and some clunky, slightly naff moments, like Brunnhilde’s “I always judge a cover by its book” while waiting to see a photo of the man she’s certain she’ll fall in love with, because his personality is just oh-so-dreamy. But the song where she’s scanning through disappointing profile after disappointing profile bubbles along nicely.
The music is the real highlight here. It’s of the accessible, humming-the-tune-when-you-leave-the-theatre variety. Koehne captures a full spectrum of musical moods from his quieter, sentimental ballads through to Brunnhilde’s raucous, red wine-fuelled moments. His use of recogniseable ringtone melodies throughout the score is particularly clever.
The Seraphim trio support Harper-Brown well, both musically and dramatically. Their ensemble work is impressive and they’re always willing to jump into the scene as (mostly) silent characters.
The Ringtone Cycle is a briskly entertaining 45 minutes. Don’t expect anything profound, but the tunes are fun, the singing’s good, and there’s a giggle to be had.
[box]The Ringtone Cycle is at Melbourne Recital Centre until December 1. Tickets are available at melbournerecital.com.au[/box]

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