Sadly I don’t make it to the opera as much as I used to, but when something special comes up in the English National Opera programme I always prioritise it in my diary.
Nico Muhly is a young and talented composer, his first opera Two Boys premiered at the ENO in 2011, and was later taken to The Met in New York. Marnie, this third and most recent opera, is based on Winston Graham’s novel of the same name. The plot follows the story of a young woman who makes her living embezzling and stealing from her employers before moving on and reinventing herself.
Muhly’s score is dramatic and sensual. Unlike many modern operatic scores Marnie has passages of lyrical melodies and twinkling orchestral textures. For the majority of the piece it is Sasha Cooke as the manipulative Marnie and Daniel Okulitch as Mark Rutland, her desperate husband on stage. Neither character is warm or lovable, although they are both utterly compelling and addictive to watch, mastering Muhly’s difficult score and commanding the stage. It was also a pleasure to see Lesley Garrett back on stage at the Coliseum, one of the first opera singers I ever saw perform. Her wholehearted characterisation of Mrs Rutland was very enjoyable to watch, and Garrett’s voice seems as effortless as ever, in her third decade performing at this venue.
The composer offers each protagonist an instrument, Marnie’s motif is played by the oboe, troubled and expected, the leering Terry is allocated a powerful trumpet part. It is the choral parts that I relished the most though. The writing is expressive and exciting and the ENO chorus give gusto and energy to the writing. It is also thanks to solid playing from the orchestra and superbly musical conducting from Martyn Brabbins.
It is impossible to write about Marnie without mentioning the stylish and slick production, staging and costumes. I wasn’t surprised to discover that all the costumes were sponsored by Mr Porter. Set in England in the 1950s, costume designer Arianne Phillips has gone to town with bright, sharp tailored outfits throughout the show.
It is a joy to see and hear Marnie on stage. As ever ENO are at the forefront of showcasing the brightest new opera in the music world.
More information and book tickets to see Marnie at the ENO on one of the final performances (1st and 3rd December) here.
Pussy Riot illustrates the journey of this modern-day, post-punk feminist art collective through the Russian justice system.
Immersive theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles collaborated with Pussy Riot founder Nadya Tolokonnikova to recreate the experience of being arrested and imprisoned for their infamous performance of ‘Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!’ at the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
This film combines an exclusive interview with Nadya in London with clips capturing the atmosphere of the immersive performance itself.
For more information, click here.
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Canvas.
It is rare that I go and see a Verdi opera without remembering the storyline. After studying the great Italian composer and his operas at university you would think the narrative of Rigoletto would stick in my head, but when I went to see the ENO production a few nights ago it was only the melodies which came to mind. Luckily I had my musical grandmother by my side to explain the plot when I got lost.
In brief the opera tells the tale of a cripple (Rigoletto) and his fair daughter (Gilda), who he locks away for protection. When Rigoletto’s boss (the Duke, a gross womaniser) spies the beautiful girl he sets about to find her. Discovering his daughter has been disgraced, Rigoletto is determined to get revenge on his boss once and for all, but unfortunately the murderer he hires kills the wrong person.
Jonathan Miller’s iconic production returns to the Coliseum for its 13th revival since the original run in September 1982. Over the last four decades this Miller vision of Rigoletto has become one of the most popular ENO show, never failing to thrill audiences. I am often not a fan of modern realisations of classic operas, but this production of Rigoletto manages to portray the story in a contemporary setting without losing the magic of Verdi’s score.
Nicholas Pallensen plays the title role for the first time and sings with gusto and emotional power. His voice is strong and his acting was hugely convincing. Sydney Mancasola makes her ENO debut as his daughter. Mancasola has a shrill voice which comes into its own during the Act III quartet. The Duke, played by Joshua Guerrero, is suitably charming, and his voice is beautifully velvety which I thought worked well for this lyrical Verdi role.
For opera lovers this production of Rigoletto is a must see, continuing at the ENO until 28 February, book tickets here.