As Alberto Sousa our Portuguese tenor soloist – playing the part of the hero Eric – has discovered,
The joy of this work is the fact that Samuel Coleridge-Taylor clearly understood the voice and how to use it to greatest effect.
The Plot – set in the 10th century and based upon a Viking Saga, recounts the story of two Viking warriors both competing for the hand of King Olaf's beautiful daughter Thelma, who needless to say loves the hero Eric. Unable, for political reasons, to chose between the two suitors, King Olaf sets them a seemingly impossible challenge – to recover his ancestor's gold chalice from the seabed. This twist provides the opportunity to introduce a host of good and evil mystical characters.
Joanna Weeks, playing the sweet voiced heroine Thelma, agrees with Alberto, that the music was written “to encompass the singer's full range.” However, acquiring the skills of a 10th century Viking princess – “never before have I been required to learn how to spit” – has not been quite so easy!
Håkan Vramsmo, a real Swede, is enjoying his role as the wicked Viking warrior Carl, determined to have Thelma by fair or foul means. Håkan, a baritone, who came to Britain about 12 years ago to study Opera, now teaches singing in London. He plays opposite Rhonda Browne, “a Kiwi”, who spoke for the whole cast when she said,
It is strange and slightly frightening to put on a première without the involvement
of its creator.
As Gudrun (mezzo) she probably has the most difficult role – she has embraced Christianity but remains in love with the vindictive pagan Carl.
All other cast members have appeared with Surrey Opera in other productions. Oliver Hunt playing the demon Djaevelen last appeared in The Abduction from the Seraglio (2005): he seems to thrive in malign roles. Tim Baldwin, a Surrey Opera regular recently seen in Albert Herring (2011), plays King Olaf. Patricia Robertson, playing Trolla – the “fairy godmother” was last seen in The Beggar's Opera (2006) and Stephen Anthony-Brown, the Neck König joined us in Madam Butterfly (2009) and The Bartered Bride (2010).