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Nielsen's 'Maskarade', reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL

 

Nielsen is best known in Britain for his orchestral music, the powerful symphonies, and late concertos; sometimes, perhaps, you might get the charming cantata Springtime in Funen. But in his home country Denmark, he is as well known for his popular songs and for his operas. Nielsen worked at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen, so his operas are constructed with a sophistication which belies the fact that he wrote only two; the tragic David and Jonathan and the comic Maskarade.

Maskarade was performed relatively recently by Opera North and now the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden is presenting its first production of the opera in collaboration with the Bregenz Festival. David Pountney's technicolour production has already been seen at the 2005 Bregenz Festival, where it was sung in German, and now it is at Covent Garden being sung in Pountney's own English translation.

The opera is based on a play by the 18th century playwright Ludvig Holberg and describes the activities of a young man and his servant as they visit the theatrical masquerade. These masquerades were thoroughly democratic in that anyone could enter providing they had the wherewithal to buy a ticket and had a disguise; everyone was masked which was liberating for both the well off and those not well off.

Michael Schade as Leander and Kyle Ketelsen as Henrik in the Royal Opera production of Nielsen's 'Maskarade' at Covent Garden. Photo © 2005 Bill Cooper
Michael Schade as Leander and Kyle Ketelsen as Henrik in the Royal Opera production of Nielsen's 'Maskarade' at Covent Garden. Photo © 2005 Bill Cooper

The political democratisation was an aspect to the play which appealed to Nielsen but Pountney, designer Johan Engels and costume designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca have chosen to emphasis the mad-cap, artificial theatrical atmosphere of the masquerade itself.

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Copyright © 5 October 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK

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