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All the singers projected the text superbly and with the orchestra under Anthony Negus' fine control, the words were audible from the mid stalls and we hardly needed the English surtitles. It is perhaps significant that both Tynan and Milne are experienced in baroque opera; both brought a finely focussed vocal line and sense of style to often complex music.

The Welsh National Opera Chorus plays a strong role in the production, with some powerful music by MacMillan. Each act concludes with a choral episode of some strength, each one different. The chorus responds to theses opportunities brilliantly. The orchestra played the score as if they had been doing it for ever. Anthony Negus, even though taking over at short notice, never gave any indication that he was anything but perfectly in charge of the performance.

Katie Mitchell's production, in Vickie Mortimer's neatly effective set, brought the work strongly to life. All in all, I think that I would have liked an occasional pause in the action, some inner movements for the singers. But that is not the opera that Macmillan and Symons Roberts wanted to write, and instead the striking orchestral interludes take this function.

Press reaction to the opera has seemed, on the whole, a little cool. I found MacMillan and Symons Roberts' new opera to be carefully considered, but profoundly moving, and given in a performance which served only to bring out the work's great strength. The piece continues on tour, with a performance at Sadlers Wells in London, and will be broadcast by BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 13 October 2007 -- do try to catch it.

Copyright © 11 October 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK



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