<< -- 2 -- Robert Hugill PARTICULARLY FRUSTRATING
At essential moments, the production was very static; the spirituals in particular were done almost as if in concert, which seemed a failure of nerve.
Musically, the performance under conductor Martyn Brabbins was very strong. Susan Gritton made an affecting soprano solo; though perhaps she did not quite have the amplitude for Steal Away. Sara Fulgoni was the rich-toned alto, tall and very striking in appearance. Timothy Robinson was the appealing tenor soloist; he put over the two great tenor solos very well. Brindley Sherratt, the bass soloist to whom much of the important recitative is consigned, conveyed the drama excellently.
The male soloists' diction was generally adequate to good, but all the soloists had periods of occluded diction and this particularly affected Sara Fulgoni in her opening solo. The chorus were similarly difficult to understand. In a darkened theatre with no possibility of reading the libretto, this was particularly frustrating.
The orchestra and chorus were on fine form in a work which has its tricky moments. As regards choral sound, I am not sure that the developed voices of an operatic chorus are ideal in terms of sound quality. I would far rather have been listening to the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
Ultimately, this production must stand and fall by how much extra the staging brought to the work. Whereas Phyllida Lloyd's staging of the St John Passion, imperfect though it was, allowed us to view the work in a new dramatic light, I am not sure that Jonathan Kent has succeeded with A Child of our Time. We came out of the theatre with the nagging feeling that a concert performance would have worked just as well.