Banquet of Secrets (Victorian Opera)
April 7 – 9
In “Banquet of Secrets”, four friends of 20 years gather at their favourite restaurant for their annual dinner of reflection on their relationships, successes and disappointments. During the course of their banquet, one of them asks “Is it possible friends as old as we, might have secrets hidden from each other?” And so they each agree to share their deepest secret over the course of the meal.
During the 90 minutes that follow, opera, musical theatre and fine dining combine in this new show by TV icon Steve Vizard and jazz legend Paul Grabowsky. Flamboyant collector Jean Pierre (Kanen Breenis) and friends, sophisticated and spirited Mia (Antoinette Halloran), poet Rose (Dimity Shepherd) and GP Drew (David Rogers-Smith) proceed to pontificate what became of their university ambitions, while they embark on an elaborate degustation, images of which are cleverly shared with the audience courtesy of an overhead tilted large-framed mirror that not only shows what is happening on the table-top but also projects the evening’s menu.
Despite their privilege, there is an emotional honesty to the group’s focus on the sentimentality of small moments of life, testament to the show’s original inspiration by a personal story that Vizard has reimagined. Indeed it’s a narrative with a poignancy that sneaks up on you, universally appealing in its contemplation of the effect that harboured secrets could have on lives and friendships if revealed. And it is refreshing to see a story of older protagonists reflecting on the people they have become as opposed to bohemian youngsters defined by their naïve optimism.
Soprano Halloran, mezzo Shepherd and tenors Rogers-Smith and Breen are nothing short of superb singers in both solo and group numbers. And their dramatic portrayals are quality. In particular, Shepherd shows a great guise for comedy in mockery of her single mum of three reality compared to what online dating prospects probably expect to see. On piano, Grabowsky leads his musicians seamlessly in support during the beautiful, lyrical score, which serves to complement Vizard’s libretto and naturalistic dialogue.
“Banquet of Secrets” is a bit of a slow burn, steady in its early scenes and set as it is in one room, but emotional intimacy ultimately prevails in the evocative new Australian work. As a hybrid of opera and musical theatre, the original work is a first for Victorian Opera and a hopeful sign on things to come in a flourishing Australian musical theatre scene.