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Spiritual truth


WILFRID MELLERS discusses Opera North's production
of 'Radamisto'

<< Continued from page 2

Alice Coote as Zenobia (right), David Walker as Radamisto (centre)
and Michael John Pearson as Tiridate (left)
in Opera North's Spring 2000 production of Radamisto
Photo copyright (c) 2000 Stephen Vaughan


In this production, however, not very proud man does his best to foil even Handel: for the production, by Tom Hopkins, is of the 'innovative' nature that tries to update everything, as though tyranny had only just been invented: though to be fair, Opera North Has in this respect been less crassly guilty than many. Over the past forty odd years we've been told that opera seria, which promoted a high proportion of the great music of Europe's 17th and 18th centuries, was untenable in the modern theatre since the elaborate stylizations implicit in its basic theme can only seem risible to jaded types like ourselves. Nowadays, Handel's operas are considered entirely stage-worthy, since the 'distancing' stylizations enable us to choose between the moral alternatives that, in interior monologue or in face-to-face confrontation, are on offer. I doubt if it's as simple as that; and certainly this production faltered because it couldn't decide what degree of stylization, or of realism, to opt for. Presumably in order to drag the story into our modern world, Stephen Rodwell's and Sheila Thewlis's costumes had a grotesquerie that accorded with Charles Edward's designs which, whether in palaces or in open streets, were dourly grey but oddly skew-whiff in their disposition of doors and windows. If this was meant to indicate a lunacy appropriate to the corridors of power, whether in the legendary world of the opera, in Stuart or Hanoverian England, or in Blair's Britain, it was nonetheless disastrous, for a very good reason: namely, that we still enjoy Handel's operas because his music reveals that his age's dreams of light, grace, and order, while remaining materially unfulfilled, still entail spiritual truth. How perverse can we get, deliberately trying to deprive Handel of his Trionfo del Tempo e della Verità - an apparent negation which he made miraculously affirmative!


Copyright © 21 May 2000 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK



Further performances of Opera North's production of Radamisto :

24 May 2000 Leeds Grand Theatre (ticket office +44 (0)113 222 6222)
26 May 2000 Leeds Grand Theatre
30 May 2000 Leeds Grand Theatre
10 June 2000 The Lowry, Salford (booking office +44 (0)161 876 2000)
17 June 2000 Theatre Royal, Nottingham (ticket office +44 (0)115 989 5555)
22 June 2000 Theatre Royal, Newcastle (booking office +44 (0)191 232 2061)






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