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For the second opera, The Departure, Madeleine Boyd's set revealed its flexibility as the wall was stripped down to just its superstructure, thus creating a loft-type apartment. The piece opens with Julia (Louise Poole) waking up and rushing round amongst the clutter of packing boxes and half packed goods. She is waiting for Mark (Håkan Vramsmo) to reappear. An off stage chorus is heard singing part of a funeral service and throughout the piece Maconchy uses these off-stage voices to vary the atmosphere and texture of the music. Mark reappears and we gradually come to understand that it is Julia herself who has died. After a moving duet Julia finally accepts that she has to leave and walks off into the light, leaving a distraught Mark.

If Tallevi's production of The Sofa was assured, then his production of The Departure was superb and did not put a foot wrong. The work has a movingly poetic atmosphere partly thanks to Anne Ridler's libretto. (Ridler was a distinguished poet.) Tallevi respected this atmosphere and did not attempt to add any gimmicks. Louise Poole impressed greatly as Julia. It is a big part as Julia is on stage the whole opera and alone for a great deal of that time. Poole incarnated Julia movingly and musically. As Mark, Vramsmo had rather less to do, but was nobly moving as the grieving widower. Impressively, he gave no hint at all that English was not his first language.

The Departure is a short, moving work and deserves to be in repertoire immediately. With performances as strong as the one given by Independent Opera, it is difficult to understand why the piece has not been taken up more.

For a young company, doing a double bill of unknown one-act operas was a brave choice, but Alessandro Tallevi and his company can now reap the rewards of their daring, and their hard work.

Copyright © 19 November 2007 Robert Hugill, London UK



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