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Ensemble

Moments of magic

'A Midsummer Marriage' at Covent Garden,
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL

 

2005 is the centenary of Michael Tippett's birth and though there have been various celebrations of his music there have not been the wholesale performances that might have been expected. Anyone wanting to see all of his operas this year would have had difficulties. So we must be grateful that the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden has followed up its performances of the chamber version of The Knot Garden with a full scale revival of Graham Vick's 1996 production of The Midsummer Marriage.

Gildas Diquero as Strephon (right) in the Ritual Dances from Tippett's 'The Midsummer Marriage' at Covent Garden. Photo © 2005 Bill Cooper
Gildas Diquero as Strephon (right) in the Ritual Dances from Tippett's 'The Midsummer Marriage' at Covent Garden. Photo © 2005 Bill Cooper

In the programme, Mike Ashman quotes Tippett as saying 'It should be reasonable in an opera to have a greater percentage of the marvellous to a smaller amount of the everyday'. Tippett put this maxim into operation with a will in The Midsummer Marriage. The opera mixes a plot outline from Mozart (via Smetana's The Kiss), Greek drama, Jungian symbolism, mythical magical beings and everyday comedy. For contemporary audiences, the opera's greatest drawback is this latter element, the everyday comedy; the demotic element in Tippett's libretto is apt to be arch and dated. Luckily The Midsummer Marriage has aged pretty well (it was premièred in 1955 but Tippett started work in 1949) and the more embarrassing elements in the libretto are easily assimilated.

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Copyright © 13 November 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK

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'Elgar and Chivalry' by Robert Anderson - available now from Elgar.org