Sometimes opera can go straight to the heart of the here and now. Oma, a Syrian refugee, is stranded on the 12th floor of a tower, yearning for permission to stay in the UK and carrying the terrible memory of her dangerous Channel crossing in a flimsy boat. She is unaware that other lonely and desperate people are just down the hall: Edward, a Jamaican widower with undiagnosed dementia, and Grace, a student beset by a threatening voice in her head.
Glyndebourne, stepping away from the opulence we normally associate with his productions, has encapsulated today’s pressing social issues in a one-chamber opera, crafted by speaking to young people, care home residents, bands mental health and others in each of the cities. to be visited by the Glyndebourne Tour this autumn. The audience goes to Figaro’s wedding and Bohemian in Canterbury, Norwich, Liverpool and Brighton can see the new play, human glass, before the main opera. By showing the human cost of this government’s feverish immigration policy, it echoes the desperate journeys in The boy With two hearts, currently playing at the National Theater, but at its heart is another modern concern: the corrosive scourge of loneliness.
In Melanie Wilson’s tale, three isolated individuals search for connections and are healed in the process
Librettist Melanie Wilson has woven a meandering narrative in which three isolated individuals search for connections and find each other in the process. It’s basically an optimistic piece, but it takes a little time to get there. Composer Samantha Fernando composes scores for accordion, harp, viola, cello and percussion, expertly performed by members of the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra. This surprising combination produces timbres of cold beauty, especially when the harp sparkles over dark accordion chords. The falling semitones feature in both the instrumental and vocal writing, a metaphor for the characters’ deep introspection. A musical pointer to an outer symbol of loneliness, a slowly growing chasm, its overwhelming electronic roars, creaks and moans draw the characters out of the building, where they find themselves finding themselves.
If it all sounds a little chewy, there are sunny moments, especially in the playful, jazzy pizzicato interplay between viola and cello (witty conducting here by Ashley Beauchamp) and in the wry observations from Wilson on Grace’s obsession with social media, as damaging as it is. for his self-esteem when his detractors use “different voices, saying things they wouldn’t say in real life”. Under Lucy Bailey’s admirably clear direction, soprano Anna Cavaliero as Grace fleshes out Fernando’s sometimes quite limited vocal lines, while Denver baritone Martin Smith does a heroic job as Edward, reprising the role at the last minute. of an indisposed Stephen Bowen. Mezzo-soprano Camille Maalawy brings graceful dignity to refugee Oma, but the powerful story of her daughter’s drowning in the English Channel is lost in sometimes hazy diction. No doubt it will improve during the race.
Describe In Darkness Let Me Dwell in its authoritative book John Dowland (Faber), the late lutenist Diana Poulton wrote: “This stunningly beautiful song is one of the greatest ever written in English. From the opening bars… to the final repetition of the words “in the dark, let me linger,” when the voice drops the last despairing note into silence, Dowland’s consummate mastery manifests in each sentence. Poulton, a pioneer of the early music revival, would surely have applauded countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Thomas Dunford for their devastating rendition of this exceptional closing song. An anatomy of melancholya dramatized recital by Dowland based on Robert Burton’s 1621 book.
Readings from him and Sigmund Freud Mourning and melancholy (1917) and Darian Leader’s The new black (2008) punctuate the composer’s greatest hits (Come Again, Sweet Love, Flow, My Tears, Come, Heavy Sleep) with Davies assuming the persona of a melancholy 21st-century metropolitan, alone with his exquisite pain. Netia Jones directed, adding video design. It was all beautifully done, but Dowland’s music is so strong in the hands of Davies and Dunford that it hardly needs visual support. Come to think of it, Davies and Dunford sound a bit like a modern day band and it’s striking how contemporary these songs are, 16th century equivalents to today’s guitar ballads in their intensity of self-pity.
The internationally acclaimed Age of Enlightenment Orchestra pushes its enlightenment mission to the max, currently based at Acland Burghley School, Tufnell Park, London, working closely with students. This collaboration has produced remarkable results, including The Hares of the Moon, a touring community opera featuring the music of Purcell Diocletian – with additional engaging material from composer James Redwood – to tell Hazel Gould’s enchanting modern fable of self-realization and freedom. Hundreds of schoolchildren across the country have already participated. Last week singers Kirsty Hopkins, Charmian Bedford, Timothy Dickinson and Robert Gildon were joined by terrific musicians and dancers from Acland Burghley and a gloriously enthusiastic and wonderfully rehearsed choir from three London primaries. It’s the turn of schools in Wiltshire later this month. Lucky.
Star ratings (out of five)
human glass ★★★
An anatomy of melancholy ★★★★
The Hares of the Moon ★★★★