The Paradis Files – Review – ★★★★★
A touching 70 minute triumph harnessing the power of blind people, unravelling difficult mother daughter relationships, and championing accessible opera for all.
Photo credit: Patrick Baldwin
Jenny Sealey’s company GRAEAE is very rarely unimpressive, and this chamber opera by Nicola Werenowska -based on an orginal idea by Selena Mills – reminds us of the magic this company brings to underrepresented stories to life.
The opera tells the story of ‘The Blind Enchantress’, Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824), an extraordinary composer, singer and teacher. Deeply respected by Mozart and Salieri – who likely had affairs with her – she was the talk of Austria and the world.
The heart of the story lies in the idea of an ‘enlightenment’ world trying to cure her blindness. The horrific treatments – from pins in the eyes to bursts of piercing light – plague Theresia’s mother, the Baroness, with guilt and shame.
Bethan Langford as Theresia is astounding, alongside Ella Taylor’s comic turn as the maid, and Maureen Braithwaite as the haughty Baroness. Musically, the piece is fast-paced for an opera, yet moving and full of emotion.
The production is completely accessible from the outset, with a touch table and access point as soon as you get into the venue. Inside, the emotional BSL performances of Chandrika Gopalakrishnan and Max Marchewicz are outstanding and woven so beautifully with the live singing.
The captions are beautifully designed in a gorgeous gold frame above the orchestra, and the (cheekily portrayed) introductions to each of the characters at the beginning seems like a simple step all theatres could take.