Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Moshinsky's Simon Boccanegra returns to Covent Garden

Despite the flaming torches of the plebeian plotters which, in the Prologue, etched chiaroscuro omens within the Palladian porticos of Michael Yeargan’s imposing and impressive set, this was a rather slow-burn revival of Elijah Moshinsky’s 1991 production of Simon Boccanegra.

Royal Academy's Semele offers 'endless pleasures'

Self-adoring ‘celebrities’ beware. That smart-phone which feeds your narcissism might just prove your nemesis.

The Eternal Flame: Debussy, Lindberg, Stravinsky and Janáček - London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski

Although this concert was ostensibly, and in some respects a little tenuously, linked to the centenary of the Armistice, it did create some challenging assumptions about the nature of war. It was certainly the case in Magnus Lindberg’s new work, Triumf att finnas till… (‘Triumph to Exist…’) that he felt able to dislocate from the horror of the trenches and slaughter by using a text by the wartime poet Edith Södergran which gravitates towards a more sympathetic, even revisionist, expectation of this period.

François-Xavier Roth conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in Works by Ligeti, Bartók and Haydn

For the second of my armistice anniversary concerts, I moved across town from the Royal Festival Hall to the Barbican.

The Silver Tassie at the Barbican Hall

‘Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.’ The words of George Orwell, expressed in a Tribune article, ‘The Sporting Spirit’, published in 1945.

The Last Letter: the Britten Sinfonia at Milton Court

The Barbican Centre’s For the Fallen commemorations continued with this varied and thought-provoking programme, The Last Letter, which interweaved vocal and instrumental music with poems and prose, and focused on relationships - between husband and wife, fellow soldiers, young men and their homelands - disrupted by war.

Fiona Shaw's Cendrillon casts a spell: Glyndebourne Tour 2018

Fiona Shaw’s new production of Massenet’s Cendrillon (1899) for this year’s Glyndebourne Tour makes one feel that the annual Christmas treat at the ballet or the panto has come one month early.

The Rake’s Progress: Vladimir Jurowski and the London Philharmonic

Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress is not, in many ways, a progressive opera; it doesn’t seek to radicalise, or even transform, opera and yet it is indisputably one of the great twentieth-century operas.

A raucous Così fan tutte at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Precisely where and when Così fan tutte takes place should be a matter of sublime indifference - or at least of individual taste. It is ‘about’ many things, but eighteenth-century Naples - should that actually be the less exotic yet still ‘othered’ neāpolis of Wiener Neustadt? - is not among them.

For the Fallen: James Macmillan's All the Hills and Vales Along at Barbican Hall

‘He has clothed his attitude in fine words: but he has taken the sentimental attitude.’ So, wrote fellow war poet Charles Hamilton Sorley of the last sonnets of Rupert Brooke.

English Touring Opera: Troubled fidelities and faiths

‘Can engaging with contemporary social issues save the opera?’ asked M. Sophia Newman last week, on the website, News City, noting that many commentators believe that ‘public interest in stuffy, intimidating, expensive opera is inevitably dwindling’, and that ‘several recent opera productions suggest that interest in a new kind of urban, less formally-staged, socially-engaged opera is emerging and drawing in new audiences to the centuries-old art form’.

Himmelsmusik: L'Arpeggiata bring north and south together at Wigmore Hall

Johann Theile, Crato Bütner, Franz Tunder, Christian Ritter, Giovanni Felice Sances … such names do not loom large in the annals of musical historiography. But, these and other little-known seventeenth-century composers took their place alongside Bach and Biber, Schütz and Monteverdi during L’Arpeggiata’s most recent exploration of musical cross-influences and connections.

Piotr Beczała – Polish and Italian art song, Wigmore Hall London

Can Piotr Beczała sing the pants off Jonas Kaufmann ? Beczała is a major celebrity who could fill a big house, like Kaufmann does, and at Kaufmann prices. Instead, Beczała and Helmut Deutsch reached out to that truly dedicated core audience that has made the reputation of the Wigmore Hall : an audience which takes music seriously enough to stretch themselves with an eclectic evening of Polish and Italian song.

Soloists excel in Chelsea Opera Group's Norma at Cadogan Hall

“Let us not be ashamed to be carried away by the simple nobility and beauty of a lucid melody of Bellini. Let us not be ashamed to shed a tear of emotion as we hear it!”

Handel's Serse: Il Pomo d'Oro at the Barbican Hall

Sadly, and worryingly, there are plenty of modern-day political leaders - both dictators and the democratically elected - whose petulance, stubbornness and egoism threaten the safety of their own subjects as well as the stability and security of other nations.

Dutch touring Tosca is an edge-of-your-seat thriller

Who needs another Tosca? Seasoned opera buffs can be blasé about repertoire mainstays. But the Nederlandse Reisopera’s production currently touring the Netherlands is worth seeing, whether it is your first or your hundred-and-first acquaintance with Puccini’s political drama. The staging is refreshing and pacey. Musically, it has the four crucial ingredients: three accomplished leads and a conductor who swashbuckles through the score in a blaze of color.

David Alden's fine Lucia returns to ENO

The burden of the past, and the duty to ensure its survival in the present and future, exercise a violent grip on the male protagonists in David Alden’s production of Lucia di Lammermoor for English National Opera, with dangerous and disturbing consequences.

Verdi's Requiem at the ROH

The full title of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem per l’anniversario della morte di Manzoni 22 maggio 1874 attests to its origins, but it was the death of Giacomo Rossini on 13th November 1868 that was the initial impetus for Verdi’s desire to compose a Requiem Mass which would honour Rossini, one of the figureheads of Italian cultural magnificence, in a national ceremony which - following the example of Cherubini’s C minor Requiem and Berlioz’s Grande messe des morts - was to be as much a public and political occasion as a religious one.

Wexford Festival 2018

The 67th Wexford Opera Festival kicked off with three mighty whacks of a drum and rooster’s raucous squawk, heralding the murderous machinations of the drug-dealing degenerate, Cim-Fen, in Franco Leoni’s one-act blood-and-guts verismo melodrama, L’oracolo … alongside an announcement by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, of an award of €1 million in capital funding for the National Opera House to support necessary updating and refurbishment works over the next 3 years.

A New La bohème Opens Season at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago opened its 2018-19 season with Giacomo Puccini’s La bohème. This new production, shared with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and with the Teatro Real, Madrid, features an accomplished cast and innovative scenic approaches.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Anna Devin as A, Owen Gilhooly as R,and Victoria Simmonds as Sister [Photo © ROH / Stephen Cummiskey]
09 Apr 2014

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

Can this be the best British opera in years? Luke Bedford’s Through His Teeth at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre is exceptional. Drop everything and go.

Luke Bedford: Through His Teeth, Linbury, Royal Opera House

A review by Anne Ozorio

Above: Anna Devin as A, Owen Gilhooly as R,and Victoria Simmonds as Sister [Photo © ROH / Stephen Cummiskey]

 

This packs more into less than an hour than many works which might last five times as long. It’s so concentrated that further hearings will only intensify the respect that it’s due. Bedford, now resident in Berlin, has found astonishing maturity and depth. Through His Teeth is sophisticated, and perhaps a bit above the heads of some, but that’s exactly why Bedford is a true original.

Through His Teeth fires on all cylinders. A, (Anna Devin) a dowdy 30 something looks at fancy cars in a showroom. R (Owen Gilhooly) spots her and chats her up. "I'm not really a car salesman", he says. The tiny orchestra, CHROMA, conducted by Sian Edwards, screams alarm. The small trumpet in C wails like a warning klaxon. The harp's shortest strings are plucked to suggest tight, tense hollowness. An accordion gasps as if its lungs are too constricted to breathe. A doesn't take heed. R picked her out even before she entered the showroom, sensing, perhaps, the vulnerability even she doesn't comprehend. What really draws a sensible girl like A into R's crazy world ? It's not simply that he's good in bed. Almost from the start she knows something's wrong. R's paranoid and thinks he's under surveillance. A assumes he's MI5. So it's OK for her to accept flowers from him if he's taken them from someone he says he's just killed ? Morally, she too, is compromised.

Distorted values, distorted reality. The designs (Becs Andrews) capture the psychological dislocation implicitly in David Harrower's deceptively simple text. Walls slide across the stage, dividing it into tightly framed compartments. Sam Meech's videos fragment, offering mutiple different perspectives, even, perhaps that of the sinister surveillance person is watching him. R controls A because she lets herself get cut off from the world around her. Yet. the walls of her "prison" are pierced weith holes which she could look through if she wanted to. This is the Faustian pact she's made with R. Like Mephitopheles he can offer her the wildest dreams imaginable but she must sell her soul.

The clarinet in B flat sings a poisoned melody, like a snake charmer's instrument. The cello is played so its strings reverberate their whole length, like a snake, flexing its muscles sensuously, like a snake falling, willingly, into hypnosis. The percussionist beats brushes, quietly replicating a failing heartbeat. Bedford creates sounds that are so intriguing that the listener is drawn into an invisible trap, almost against one's will. With abstract music, Bedford recreates extreme psychological complexity. Through His Teeth isn't just about sex. Manipulative people create cults around themselves.

A sinks so deeply into R's psychosis that her sister (Victoria Simmonds, playing multiple roles) who lives in the real world, finds a way to trap him. R is put into prison. Gilhooly walks as if he';s in chains we cannot see. Brilliantly economic direction by Bijan Sheibani. Watch this director - he's very good. Chains we cannot see: perhaps that sums up the horrifying nature of these mind games. A meets another of R's women, (also Simmonds), a bag lady who blames herself for not being good enough to join the MI5 of R's imagination. Modern Mephistopheles prey on their victim's hidden weaknesses, sucking them into a web of their own making.

At the end, the TV interviewer (Simmonds again) asks A, who is now technically "free", what she would do if if she were to meet R again. The question is put gently.. A's response seems non committal, but Bedford's music suggests that A knows, deep in her heart, that she's do it all over again. The ending is powerful , all the more because it's so chillingly understated. Bedford's Through His Teeth is a major work, which needs to be carefully contemplated.

Anne Ozorio

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):