Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House
Craftsman/Man 3/Gracchus/Policeman – Andri Björn RobertssonSilversmith/Man 1 – Daniel Norman
Daughter/Woman – Anna Dennis
Pope/Surgeon/Man 2 – William Purefoy
Girl – Suzanne Shakespeare
Annabel Arden (director)Joanna Parker (designs)
Matt Haskins (lighting)
Dick Straker (video)
Pete Malkin (sound engineer)
Richard Baker (conductor)
|Man 2 (William Purefoy), Woman (Anna Dennis), Man 1 (Daniel Norman), Girl (Suzanne Shakespeare)|
Images: © ROH - Stephen Cummiskey
These two new one-act operas had been given their first performances on 14 March at Snape Maltings; three days later, they came to London, where they will be performed three times, before moving to Leeds’s Howard Assembly Room for a performance there. That reflects the excellent idea of having Aldeburgh, the Royal Opera, and Opera North jointly commissioning and sharing productions on an annual basis. Much as one might regret the language in which the statement, ‘Nurturing Opera Makers of the Future’ is couched, for instance, ‘The motivation is that in recent years this middle-scale opera sector has changed,’ the commissioners’ hearts are doubtless in the right place. They rightly point to the sad demise, for which our political masters bear heavy though not sole responsibility, of companies such as English Opera Group, Kent Opera, and Almeida Opera; let us hope that this initiative continues to bear fruit as it did here.
|Craftsman (Andri Björn Róbertsson)|
Café Kafka offered a bracing, sardonic contrast – one to which I admit I responded more readily, but again, that may be more about me. Meredith Oakes may now, I think, be forgiven that doggerel reduction of The Tempest for Thomas Adès, since this offers a genuinely provocative treatment of, in her words, ‘the vertigo and intoxication people feel not just from trying and failing to understand the world, but also from trying to deal with the actual details of their own and other people’s behaviour’. The point is made more than once that the search for coherence may be in vain: a point we should at least consider, even if it prove well-nigh impossible for us as humans entirely to acquiesce. Two men and two women’s flirtations and conversations in a café attempt and fail to make sense of their lives, when suddenly the mood and tone change (as well, in this case, as the excellent lighting: Matt Haskins), and, in the words of director Annabel Arden’s synopsis, ‘Into this hermetic world comes the inexplicable figure [from a Kafka short story] of the Hunter Gracchus who died a long time ago, but whose death ship cannot truly cross into the realm of death.’ Francisco Coll’s score is bright and angular, rhythm and instrumentation working in often scintillating tandem. Here undoubtedly is a major talent, as was also suggested a couple of years ago at a London Sinfonietta performance of his Piedras. Vocal writing and differentiation were for me more readily apparent here, and a similar degree of resourcefulness, albeit of quite different nature, was undoubtedly apparent.