Friday, June 19, 2015

Wonderful Birtwhistle Double Bill: The Corridor and The Cure

To the Royal Opera House last night for an amazing double bill of Birtwhistle: The Corridor which is about 10 years old and The Cure which is brand new - this was the London première though I think it was done in Aldeburgh a few weeks earlier.

Both were outstanding and the two together were superb - I hope and expect they will become a staple for many years.

Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Atherton were the two brilliant singers, playing Orfeus and Eurydice in The Corridor and Jason, Aeson and Medea in The Cure. I wasn't able to congratulate them, but I did thank and congratulate Birtwhistle and shake him by the hand. I can't recommend these too strongly and there are a few more performances - get there if you can!

Birtwhistle with the conductor Geoffrey Paterson
One of the many reasons Birtwhistle is so good is that he collaborates with excellent poets as librettists: in this case David Harsent  who also did Gawain and The Minotaur. The Corridor first takes Orfeus' path leading Eurydice and then fatally looking back just as she is almost out in the light, and then has dialogues between the two reflecting on it. There is in effect a 3rd character which is when The Soprano is speaking to the audience, asking if they can really believe the story. The musicians are also very much on the stage and The Soprano interacts with them physically although they do not speak.  What would it really be like for someone to come back to life, drawn by the love of their husband? What would it be like to have to die a second time?

The Cure has a related theme. Medea makes 3 potions, from herbs, her spittle and her blood and administers them to Aeson by kisses. Aeson is also unsure whether he really wants to be returned to his youth and grow old a second time. Padmore doubles both Jason and Aeson and he was, as usual, superb.

With increasing public discussion of treatments to prolong life and reverse ageing and some scientists (or "scientists") offering the prospect of effective immortality these operas are very topical and should become a standard part of the repertoire.

I'm pleased to say that not only is Elizabeth Atherton an outstanding opera singer, but she was at Trinity Cambridge - so was Mary Bevan for that matter. Look out for Elizabeth - one to watch!

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