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RODERIC DUNNETT looks back at a
thumping good summer for opera festivals in Britain and Ireland

Part 4 - Mr Emmet Takes a Walk


Adrian Clarke (Mr Emmet) with Rebecca Caine as the Old Crone in the world première of 'Mr Emmet Takes a Walk'

<< Continued from Part 3

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's new music theatre work Mr Emmet Takes a Walk is his second collaboration with the director and librettist David Pountney, former head of productions at English National Opera and member of ENO's acclaimed 'Powerhouse' production trio of Peter Jonas, Pountney and conductor Mark Elder. Maxwell Davies and Pountney previously collaborated on a powerful full-length opera for Welsh National Opera, The Doctor of Myddfai, which updates -- to devastating effect -- a curious old Welsh folk tale.

Mr Emmet is a nondescript figure, a mere cog in the machine of business skulduggery -- and, unwittingly, spying : a Jedermann of the kind favoured by German Expressionism (and about to be encountered next year in David Sawer's new opera for ENO, From Morning to Midnight, based on the Georg Kaiser play.) The action has a surreal feel : it's like, as Pountney points out, 'piecing together a jigsaw' -- the fragments, as it were, of Mr Emmet's past, in particular his shady negotiations with a Hungarian spy ('Mr Gabor'), his sinuous female assistant and overawing emissaries. The eerie exchanges have a pressure-cooker effect : they exhaust and dislocate the obsessively meticulous, well-groomed Mr Emmet (who carefully places his shoes together even before having sex) and bring him to the verge of suicide. Hence the 'events' are seen as flashbacks, captured in the split seconds before his self-inflicted death on a railway track (the train's hoot is heard at the start, again near the close, and at the end).

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Copyright © 16 December 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK





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