<< -- 3 -- Robert Hugill A REMARKABLE ACHIEVEMENT
The final accord between Henry and Beckett, late in Beckett's life, was a wonderful highlight a gloriously melodic duet which Joll and Burt brought to life. In Anouilh's play about Beckett and Henry there is a homo-erotic element in their relationship which producers sometimes bring out. Barlow, Wells and director Harry Silverstein did not go that far, but they did give full weight to the power of the relationship between the two men. But perhaps the scene which stood out the most was Beckett's long solo, when at prayer. For once, text did not matter and Joll projected Beckett's divided soul in a powerful manner.
The direction by Harry Silverstein had moments of brilliance when it came to dealing with the building. But his personenregie left a bit to be desired and I think that a stronger direction of the singers might have helped make the sung sections come over stronger.
The Cathedral Choir opened proceedings by singing the plainchant vespers which had been sung the moment Becket was murdered. The opera thus opened with the murder exactly as it had happened, a powerful coup. Thereafter the choir was under used -- I wish that Barlow had included some more complex choral moments.
By the end of the evening I began to tire of the spoken sections and the way they seemed to interrupt the flow of the music. By the second half of the piece I was also finding the children less than enchanting. I also found Wells's text a little trite at times but I realise that this might be unfair as Wells was labouring under the difficulties of writing a useable opera libretto. I am aware that these reactions were not shared by my fellow listeners who seemed to respond well to the work; the Dean of Canterbury was obviously very taken with the work and went so far as to make it the theme of his sermon on the Sunday morning.
King - A Cathedral Opera. Music by Stephen Barlow. Words by Philip Wells. Canterbury Cathedral. 28, 29, 30 April 2006
Ultimately, King was a remarkable achievement on the part of the all the various participants, but one which could have been even stronger. But then it would have been a different work, and perhaps less the community piece which was intended. I just hope that Barlow can re-work the music into a powerful chamber opera.
Copyright © 2 May 2006
Robert Hugill, London UK
KING - A CATHEDRAL OPERA