This was an astonishingly intense production that deserves the five star reviews it has received. The set and the direction were stunning and it was certainly far more rewarding than The Drowned Man, based on the same story. I am not sure the balance between the orchestra and singers was quite right, with the latter sometimes overwhelmed by Berg’s use of brass but the music itself is wonderfully dramatic. Despite this, the man next to me spent 10-15 minutes sneezing and loudly blowing his nose before falling asleep for half an hour. Sometimes it can be kinder to the other members of the audience to go on sick leave.
The innocents about to be sacrificed
(all images copyright Royal Opera House used with permission)
The composer, Harrison Birtwistle, came on stage at the end of this last performance in this run of his opera to huge, well-justifed applause. The music was wonderful and the huge orchestra (filling the orchestra pit and spreading into the auditorium) was excellently conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth; the singing was superb, especially John Tomlinson as the poor, suffering Minotaur.
Johan Reuter as Theseus and John Tomlinson as the Minotaur
If I were to give the slightest criticism, I would have preferred a shorter first act or more dramatic action to keep the act going – it is very intense stuff for a solid 90 minutes. That said, this was a tremendous production and drew in a much younger audience than I usually see at the ROH. One young man near me was even wearing a safety pin through his ear – maybe punk is coming back!
It’s too late to see it again in this run but I’m sure it will be back.
I had to see this as a curiosity and it is certainly curious! It is a melodramatic story with a melodramatic production by Laurent Pelly.
The staging and singing are superb and, even if the music is not memorable, the four and a half hours flew by. Not forgetting the ballet of the evil, ghostly nuns; more Hammer Horror than Giselle, it all added to the fun. There was plenty of laughter at points that Meyerbeer and his librettist Grice clearly did not intend but it all fitted with the Hammer Horror vibe. At the start of the first interval, the woman next to me said, “Great fun.” I couldn’t put it better. The picture is on the Royal Opera Facebook page.