Bach at the Opera
SHIRLEY RATCLIFFE attends English National Opera's
staging of the St John Passion
<< Continued from page 1
it got considerably better. Paul Whelan's Jesus, although more a man of
flesh than other-worldly, was beautifully sung and David Kempster was very
adept at portraying Pilate's dilemma. Without a doubt Mark Padmore is one
of the great Evangelists, his voice subtly shading every nuance of the story
but I wonder, as narrator of events, if he should have been asked to show
such emotion. The principal soloists, Natalie Christie making her ENO debut
as replacement for Susan Gritton, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Barry Banks and,
another ENO debut, Michael George - all well-versed in Bach performance
- were excellent.
Also making his debut at the Coliseum was conductor Stephen Layton who
describes the St John Passion as being in his bloodstream. This he
demonstrated by coaxing out of the ENO orchestra - slightly augmented with
some early instrumentalists - a performance of great sensitivity and musicality,
holding the performance together on stage with great skill and, occasionally
driving the pace forward to suit the action.
At the Crucifixion onwards, Warner's production was intensely sensitive
and moving, the, at times, great, almost bare stage giving a feeling of
extraordinary desolation - the house was absolutely still.
It didn't last. At the closing chorus the light bulbs descended again
and bunches of flowers covered the stage - shades of Kensington Palace.
The valedictory chorale had the amateur singers - human nature being what
it is - trying to outdo the opera chorus. This had me groping my way through
the auditorium muttering just before the lights went up and the applause
What a pity that singular atmosphere was not maintained until the curtain
came down. With no applause many would have left the Coliseum in a thoughtful
frame of mind. If only ...
Copyright © 21 April 2000 Shirley
Ratcliffe, Norfolk, UK
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