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Mark Stone, as Chou En-lai brought out a remarkable strain of melancholy and anxiety within the role. In the final act he seemed to embody the worries over the future of China.
In Act 1, Adrian Thompson's Mao, with his difficulties walking and repeated collapses, verged on comedic caricature. Whereas in Act 3, when he descends from behind his portrait to dance with Madame Mao, he seemed more relaxed and more real. Roland Wood was strong in the role of Henry Kissinger and Serena Kay, Alexandra Sherman and Rebecca de Pont Davies made fearsome secretaries.
Left to right: Rebecca de Pont Davies (3rd Secretary), Mark Stone (Chou En-lai), Serena Kay (1st Secretary), Alexandra Sherman (2nd Secretary), Adrian Thompson (Chairman Mao), James Maddalena (Richard Nixon) and Roland Wood (Henry Kissinger). Photo © 2006 English National Opera and Alistair Muir
The whole work is amplified and re-balanced so that the voices were dominant. This meant that words were always clear. But had the disadvantage that the placing of voices was made vague, it was almost like watching a film of the action rather than the real thing. I missed the immediacy of hearing the voices naturally. From where we were sitting in the upper circle, the balance favoured the voices and some of Adams's dramatic instrumental climaxes lacked power (through no fault of the instrumentalists).
Copyright © 2 July 2006
Robert Hugill, London UK