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<<  -- 3 --  Roderic Dunnett    DRAMATIC TABLEAUX


What we, the audience, are witnesses to is not the original Last Supper and footwashing, but a re-enaction : as if Christ and the Twelve, 2000 years on, and fully cognizant of intervening history (with all its recent horrors, to which slightly trite, synthetic reference is made in the text) are performing some ghostly parody of the original Easter week story : we may surmise they have perhaps been doing the same, annually, ever since 33 AD.

Harrison Birtwistle: The Last Supper. Geoffrey Moses as Peter and Susan Bickley as the Ghost. Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin, April 2000. Photo: Mike Hoban

Interpreting for the audience is the soprano role of the 'Ghost' (the superb Susan Bickley, whose longish initial contribution launched the opera on the right footing), a kind of hermeneutic interloper ('I am the ghost of you') who conjures the audience into the action. There is further commentary, like a Christianised Greek chorus, though never quite as dramatically effective as that from a celestial female choir (Chorus Mysticus), which hypnotically echoes, often in Latin, the utterances of the apostles, notably in the first 'Vision' (or tableau), prefaced each central section with (presumably) the apposite plainsong ('O bone Jesu', 'Pange lingua' and 'In supremae nocte cenae'), and poses lofty questions (notably the initial and final 'Quis sit Deus' ('what exactly is God?'), here translated as the rather more simplistic 'Who is God'?)

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Copyright © 21 November 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK






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