London may have been basking in the golden glow of summer sunshine this week, but things have been darkly gothic on the capital’s opera scene.
There was a palpable anticipatory buzz in the audience well before one note was heard of Pacific Opera Project’s adventurous take on Rossini’s seldom staged La Gazzetta (The Newspaper).
Dangerous Liasions with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Joined by Les Corps …loquents (Hubert Hazebrouq, choreographer, IrËne Feste and Romain Arreghini), the OAE surpassed even their own high standards, demonstrating the link between music and dance in the French baroque.
Six years ago composer George Benjamin and playwright Martin Crimp gave the
world Written on Skin. It caused a sensation at its unveiling at
the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Hot on the heels of its world premiere at the
Royal Opera House in London, the composer is now conducting their second
full-length opera, Lessons in Love and Violence, at the Holland
Festival, where he is this year’s Composer in Focus.
In the second scene, ‘The Welcome’, of Benjamin Britten’s The Turn of the Screw, the Governess arrives at her employer’s country house, Bly, to take charge of her two new tutees, and sings, “Bly, I begin to love you … For Bly is now my home”. Later, she declares, “I too am home. Alone, tranquil and serene.” It’s difficult to imagine a less homely, tranquil and serene dwelling place than the cracked and crooked glass-house which forms the single set for English National Opera’s new production of The Turn of the Screw, and which marks a new association between the company and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Those for whom opera is primarily a matter of fine singing will have had a treat in this Entf¸hrung. In that sense, so did I. The Grange Festival had assembled a cast to grace any stage, a cast that more than lived up to expectations on this, the first night.
Opera seems to travel far from the opera house these days. Alongside numerous productions in community spaces and pub theatres, in the last few years I’ve enjoyed productions staged on the shingle shore of Aldeburgh beach, at the bottom of the shaft of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Thames Tunnel at Rotherhithe, and in a renovated warehouse in Shoreditch on the roof of which perch four ‘creative studios’ in the form of recycled Jubilee line train carriages and shipping containers.
The truly tragic moments of this long history rich in humanity behind us we embark on the sordid tale of the Lord of the Gibichungs’s marriage to Br¸nnhilde and the cowardly murder of Siegfried, to arrive at some sort of conclusion where Br¸nnhilde sacrifices herself to somehow empower women. Or something.
We discover the child of incestuous love, we ponder a god’s confusion, we anticipate an awakening. Most of all we marvel at genius of the composer and admire the canny story telling of the Zambello production.
Yes, just when you thought Wotan was the only big guy in town San Francisco Symphony (just across a small street from San Francisco Opera), offered three staged performances of the Mussorgsky masterpiece Boris Godunov in direct competition with San Francisco Opera’s three Ring des Nibelungen cycles.