“Strong performances ... Benjamin directs with considerable theatrical flair”
“Succeeds in sustaining interest over nearly two hours ... The fluent, well-crafted score offers some striking moments”
“The music thrills ... an intriguing bit of weirdness”
Here's a summary of the press reviews received so far for the August and September 2014 tour of MADAME X.
Also available: Please look at the audience reviews!
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The "industry bible", Opera, were full of praise for MADAME X, both the music: Tim Benjamin refreshingly provided an opera that succeeds in sustaining interest over nearly two hours ... The fluent, well-crafted score offers some striking moments and the singers, particularly Tom Morss (passionately focused), Laura Sheerin (alluring), Marc Callahan (wickedly glamorous), Taylor Wilson (tangy, chic, and vainglorious) and Jon Stainsby (outstandingly alert).
One of our key aims as an opera company is to introduce contemporary opera to people who are completely new to opera, and so it was wonderful to read this review from Weekend Notes. The writer (who is new to opera) wonders what constitutes an award-winning production, and says that if spending hours glued to the stage in wonder is an important attribute for a production to have, then this has it. She goes on to say that she has fallen in love several times throughout the last few hours of my life and have experienced a range of emotion. I'm not sure I will ever get over this production, nor do I want to. A few hours of performance, but a whole many more of wonder.
There's another positive if short review from the Manchester performance of MADAME X by Jildy Sauce, who singles out Laura Sheerin, Tom Morss, and Taylor Wilson for praise, in particular highlighting Morss' fine aria and well-deserved ovation. The reviewer summarises I very much enjoyed Tim Benjamin’s atmospheric opera and it would be wonderful to see the opera again in the future.
First of the London reviews, A Younger Theatre's review of Madame X describes the cast shining with a refreshing energy, creating a vibrant atmosphere, singling out for praise Jon Stainsby's great comic timing and gorgeous rounded baritone, Taylor Wilson's extremely charismatic and artsy Cruella-de-Vil-ish Lady Brannoch, Laura Sheerin who finds a beautiful balance between innocence and a fesity spiriy as Zerlina, and Tom Morss, whose tenor hits your bones as Masetto's life crumbles. Tim Benjamin's score is also given high praise, beautifully composed with many delicious flavours and shades.
Next up there's Now As I Write's review of Madame X, which highlights the moving violin solo which opens the first act, and the cast from the outset offering a charming rapport and clear characterisation. The review praises the beautiful voices across the board, in particular stunning soprano Laura Sheerin and fantastic baritone Jon Stainsby, and in general the undoubtedly talented ensemble, and concludes: Exquisite when in chorus, inherently melancholy and ultimately soul-bearing, Madame X poses infinitely more questions than it answers.
And here's a great review by OperaCompass, which also praises Jon Stainsby, sung masterfully ... with a rich and assured baritone, overall the singers' excellent voices, and also Tim Benjamin's enthralling score with enjoyable tuneful passages alongside the more avant garde.
Here's The Upcoming's review of Madame X by Georgia Mizen, which praises the opera's very modern relevance and subtle humour, and describes the performance as emotively sung, intelligently presented in English and with an undoubtedly talented ensemble, and accurately sums up the plot as a satirical gaze upon the perpetual pennilessness of the artist. Jon Stainsby (Botney) and Laura Sheerin (Zerlina) are singled out for exceptional praise.
Next we have a review of Madame X by Carolin Kopplin for UK Theatre Network. The review picks up on some of the references in Tim Benjamin's score, and praises the singers: the quality of the voices is excellent throughout. Of many musical moments, the reviewer was particularly impressed by the beautiful piece that is sung by the worshippers at the beginning of Act 2, and singles out Taylor Wilson as Lady Brannoch and Marc Callahan as the capitalist Mr Wilmore who almost steal the show. In summary, the review proclaims Madame X an intriguing new opera that is definitely worth seeing.
There was one review from the world premiere in the Yorkshire as Todmorden News reviews Madame X. Again, the review highlights the opera's satire of the rich, and praises the inventive staging and the assertive voices. The music is praised for being accessible and tuneful, and the review concludes by recommending Madame X as well worth a visit and there's a sting in the tail.
We also have a review of Madame X by I Care If You Listen. This is the first review to pick up on some of the gender politics lurking beneath the surface of Madame X, and singles out Taylor Wilson for praise, who left the review wishing we had an entire opera about Lady Brannoch, together with Marc Callahan, who immersed the audience in this deliciously skeezy, predatory, slimeball character. Overall the review describes the cast of Madame X as impressive and in excellent voice and the opera overall as enjoyable - especially if you enjoy new opera.
The traditional press also made an appearance, with the Evening Standard praising an intriguing bit of weirdness and singling out, again, Jon Stainsby's particularly pleasing presence and also the score, highlighting a Passion-like lament with cello obbligato and a choral development of Gregorian chant [which] thrills (link). The Guardian praise MADAME X's particularly strong performances from Marc Callahan (dangerous charisma both vocally and physically), Taylor Wilson all hauteur and thrilling low notes and Tom Morss' touchingly naive Masetto. The review also praises the composer and director: Benjamin directs the opera himself with considerable theatrical flair. (link)
Finally, there is a review by Manchester Salon of the RNCM performance of Madame X, which praises the cast, excellent in both acting and singing, in particular Taylor Wilson (a powerful presence), Jon Stainsby (wonderful), and Marc Callahan (well measured menace). The reviewer finds that the music was fascinating to hear ... certainly a modern composition, yet also very melodic, a musical tapestry that worked well in capturing the emotions of the drama, and that the musicians were outstanding. The review ends hoping that there will be more performances – it would be criminal otherwise.