The Yellow Sofa, a single-act chamber opera, will be performed the very first time in Hungary on the 18th of October 2020 in the University of Music Budapest. The novella of the greatest writer of Portuguese Realism had a long and adventurous way to go from its writing to the birth of the musical variant. And real fun only begins here…
José Maria de Eça de Queirós, the Portuguese writer whom critics compare to Dickens, Tolstoy and Balzac, and Émile Zola even considered to be better than Flaubert, died in 1900. His son, José Maria Jr., found the manuscripts of many unpublished works in a locked chest. Among them, there was a novella called Alvés & Co. The son needed a lot of time to read his father’s hectic script and to correct the grammatical and punctuation mistakes in the text, so the story was only published in 1925. In the English translation, then, it was the yellow sofa that took the right of being a title character from the wishy washy antihero Godofredo Alves.
“It’s always really exciting doing new operas. Partly because you don’t have the weight of history looking over your shoulder and saying all, you know, I wouldn’t do it like that, or we did it like that a hundred years ago”(Frederic Wake-Walker, director of the British performance from 2012)
Young British composer Julian Philips and librettist Edward Kemp wrote this funny opera in 2009 on the basis of the original novella. As in other Eça de Queirós works, it is also marital infidelity that fuels most of the conflicts – and the humour as well. In the Hungarian premiere, Zsolt Haja is going to play Godofredo Alves, business owner from Lisbon, who one day comes home to find his business partner Machado (Barna Bartos) having seduced his wife Ludovica (Lilla Horti). And not anywhere but exactly on the YELLOW SOFA, which was a gift to her! The man furiously throws Ludovica out of their home, but then starts to run around, asking others what to do. But the best counselling doesn’t come from his father-in-law or friends, but the Yellow Sofa herself, who is, under the name of Amarela (which is the Portuguese word for ‘yellow’), also part of the crew – in the Hungarian version she will be played by Andrea Meláth. How will Godofredo decide, and what will others do? You should find it out from the show!
“It’s a short hour piece, barely that, in which not a lot happens, but we make the most of it. It’s a bit of a love story, a bit of one man’s madness, I guess, definitely an ensemble piece that’s full of laughs, actually!”(Lauren Easton who played Amarela in 2012)
The reviewer of Gramophone praised The Yellow Sofa during its summer tours eight years ago, and recommended it to be played in front of broader audiences. He especially liked the personification of the sofa, the harmony of the various instruments – eleven string instruments, two guitars and one piano -, and the musical evocation of different atmospheres. Soon, audience can hear it in Hungary as well, with the original English language and Hungarian subtitles.