Classical: FIRST NIGHT: Flight/Glyndebourne Touring Opera

A few years ago, Jonathan Dove composed a lively, intriguing and memorable one-act chamber opera for the Almeida Festival entitled Siren Song. It concerned a naive sailor duped by a lonely-hearts penfriend who eventually turned out to be far from what she seemed.

Now Dove takes to the air for a major new full-length opera for Glyndebourne Touring Opera, appropriately entitled Flight. Composed to a libretto by April de Angelis, and set in a modern airport, Flight concerns the fortunes of a disparate group of travellers and personnel during an electrical storm which has led to a temporary suspension of take-offs.

"The opera has a nice contemporary feel," says bass-baritone Steven Page, who plays the Minsk Man in the production. "It's comic, tragic, realist, dramatic, all at the same time." The Minsk Man, incidentally, is a diplomat who's been posted to that city. "His wife is pregnant and she refuses to accompany him on the flight. He goes without her and in the third act returns to find his wife giving birth."

Page also compares the opera to "say, something like Sondheim, maybe crossed with Britten and John Adams. Dove's idiom is difficult to compartmentalise. He's very much his own man which, I think, makes him a very exciting modern voice."

Directed by Richard Jones, Flight also seems to be engaging its large cast theatrically. "Richard has done some interesting, off-beat and controversial work - the much-debated Royal Opera Ring cycle, for example - yet Flight finds him following the contours of the opera closely and meticulously. Then again, it's the sort of approach the work demands. There's no need to be symbolic or allegorical. The piece itself is immediate, up-front and presents itself in a clear and appealing way. Bringing out the personal inter-relationships - that's the gist of the direction, and it's working very well."

`Flight' is at Glyndebourne Opera House (01273 813813) on 24 and 26 Sept; and 22 Oct, 7pm

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