The extraordinary Lydians Opera legacy
5 Classic Operas done Trini-style!
1995 – KOANGA
Pat Bishop finally found the Koanga score having searched for it for many years. The time was ripe for her to lead the Lydians in their first opera production at the Central Bank Auditorium. Lydian Steel with keyboardists comprised the unique orchestra for this and all subsequent operatic performances. This performance made history world wide and the front page of the Trinidad Guardian as the first full-length opera to be performed with steelpan orchestra. The opera is set in a sugarcane plantation on the Mississippi in Louisiana where a tragic triangular love story develops. Palmyra, a mulatto slave-girl and Koanga, an African prince and also voodoo priest are drawn to each other. However, the plantation foreman pursues Palmyra and is killed by Koanga.
Lead Roles: KOANGA (Randal Robinson, Orlando MacIntosh (dec.) PALMYRA (Glenis Yearwood, Joanne Pyle)
1996 – L’ELISIR D’AMORE
The opera L’Elisir D’Amore was presented to the public in December at the Central Bank Auditorium and replaced the traditional Christmas fare. Ms Bishop produced it so swiftly after Koanga to consolidate gains and to correct errors. This light-hearted, comedic opera is set in an Italian village and centers around “Doctor Dulcamara” a confidence trickster. Her persuades the awkward love-struck Nemorino that drinking a love potion will give him the confidence to successfully woo Adina, a rich educated farmer. In the Lydian production of the opera, the elixir was interpreted as homemade sorrel, a popular drink in the Caribbean at Christmas time,
Lead Roles: NEMORINO (Edward Cumberbatch, Sheldon Morales) ADINA (Glenis Yearwood, Joanne Pyle) DR. DULCAMARA (Randal Robinson, Barry Martin)
1999 – TURANDOT
The Lydians performed the opera Turandot at The Country Club, Trinidad. Following the success of Edward Cumberbatch who was acclaimed the Over 25 Recital winner at the international 1997 Eisteddfod Competition in South Africa, Ms Bishop decided to teach the Lydians this opera to pay tribute to him. For he was an excellent example of discipline, focus, attention to detail and the postponement of gratification, which all Lydians could imitate in order to earn satisfying results. This opera is set in China where the beautiful but ruthless princess Turandot has set her suitors three riddles to solve. Those who fail to solve them are executed. Amazingly, Persian Prince Calaf solves the riddles and after struggling with her emotions Turandot publicly displays her love for the Prince.
Lead Roles: TURANDOT (Glenis Yearwood, Joanne Pyle) CALAF (Edward Cumberbatch, Andre Alexander) LIU (Germaine Wilson, Miriam Richardson) TIMUR (Patrick Bertrand, Orlando MacIntosh)
2005 – ORPHEUS AND EURIDICE
Performed at The Queen’s Hall Auditorium and Skiffle Bunch panyard in San Fernando, Trinidad, the Lydians’ widely acclaimed interpretation of this Opera turned Greek to ‘Trini’ with the scene set in a traditional Trinidad Carnival motif. The story, heralded by that familiar character, The Pierrot Grenade, told of the immortal love story of Orpheus and Euridice from Greek mythology and of a love over which death has no dominion. In Gluck’s opera, Orpheus played and lute, however, for the Lydians’ production, Orpheus became the sweetest pan man one could ever hear. Blue devils, Jab Jabs and Dragon mas characters comprised the Furies, guardians of the gates of Hades, along with several other familiar Carnival references, which made for a unique and enjoyable performance.
Lead Roles: ORPHEUS (Edward Cumberbatch, Michael Zephyrine) EURIDICE (Glenis Yearwood, Joanne Pyle) AMOR (Donna-Marie Neaves, Leanna Roper)
2008 - SCENES FROM THE SONG OF HIAWATHA
Written by a black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, another opera interpreted through the lens of Caribbean references was Scenes from the song of Hiawatha. Into this production, Ms Bishop incorporated the Fancy Indian Carnival mas tradition for costuming. The First Peoples of the Trinidad and Tobago were also welcomed and included in the opera with the inclusion of a traditional smoke ceremony before the performance at Queen's Hall. The scene is set in a peaceful eastern woodland village where Hiawatha, chief of his people is taking the hand of the lovely Minnehaha, Laughing Water. The wedding is a joyous one, with feasting and good will passed among the gathering, with dancing, singing and storytelling to appease the guests and ensure that all are contended. Shortly after the wedding, the winter comes, and the village is plagued by a severe bout of famine and fever. Minnehaha falls ill and dies during the winter. After the winter passes, visitors from afar come into the village of Hiawatha bringing their messages and their tales of religion from far lands, all of which convince Hiawatha that they mean his people well. Before long, he announces his departure, expressing a desire to travel westward, leaving the guests behind, under the careful watch of Nokomis. Bidding farewell to his people, Hiawatha departs.
Lead Roles: CHIBIABOS (Edward Cumberbatch)
The Lydians remain deeply grateful to the wide array of dedicated persons who have generously contributed over the years to production design and management, stage management and direction, set design, props and set construction, sound and lighting design, wardrobe, make up, choreography, ushering, dance, printing, photograph, percussion and brass, sponsorship, rehearsal and performance venues, advertising and media coverage.