Adams, The Death of Klinghoffer, English National Opera
Writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson is Chief Classical Music and Opera Critic for The Independent. He wrote and presented the long-running BBC Radio 3 series Stage & Screen, in which he interviewed many of the most prominent writers and stars of musical theatre. He appears regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4. On television, he has commentated a number of times at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. He has published books on Mahler and the conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and has been on Gramophone Magazine's review panel for many years. Edward presented the 2007 series of the Radio 4 music quiz Counterpoint. He has interviewed everyone from Leonard Bernstein to Liza Minelli; from Paul McCartney to Pavarotti: from Julie Andrews to Jessye Norman.
Sunday 26 February 2012
The defining moment in John Adams’ opera - and Tom Morris’ staging of it - comes right at the top of a long and not unproblematic evening.
And it’s a moment that should give pause for even those who huff and puff before seeing and experiencing. A chorus of Palestinian exiles dissolves into a chorus of Jewish exiles and as one group disrobes to reveal the next we realise that they are the same - same chorus, same singers, same human kind. Meanwhile Adams’ compassionate arpeggiations roll out and Finn Ross’ hypnotic projections merge desertscapes with oceanscapes as half a century passes in silently judgemental captions - a devastating reminder that this conflict is a wound refusing to heal.
Adams‘ choruses are, of course, the most inspiring part of his concept for Klinghoffer and in that ENO do him proud. Through them the piece becomes a meditation on the troubles - like spirituals or chorales folded into the tried and tested form of a Passion. One almost wishes that Adams and his librettist Alice Goodman had stuck more religiously, so to speak, to that form and side-stepped the more explicit documentary dramatisation that the Achille Lauro hijacking so temptingly invites. The piece feels more oratorio than docu-drama and in that sense Tom Morris always had his work cut out.
To his credit he keeps it simple with designer Tom Pye’s huge moving panels cleverly absorbing those oceanic projections but in the next moment transforming into a wailing wall of solidarity. The filmic jump-cuts are clarified with news captions and actual photographs - accentuating the gulf between fact and theatrical fiction - but the dance elements are hit and miss with the raging “night chorus” of Palestinian outrage exploding act one against a backdrop of proliferating graffiti and swirling flags a little too redolent (though green not red this time) of a certain revolutionary musical.
Adams’ uneven score - soundly attended by Baldur Brönnimann - is at its best when it embraces the personal as opposed to the political. The big arias are truly showstopping: the Palestinian mother (Clare Presland) whose son takes the life of Klinghoffer (the excellent Alan Opie) in an unflinching double-perspective which horrifically puts us right there in the moment. And who could not be moved by Michaela Martens’ storming final aria in memory of her husband.
I still have major problems with librettist Alice Goodman’s purpler flights of fancy but I defend hers and Adams’ right to give everyone a voice. That, I guess, is the essence of Klinghoffer. Good on ENO for recognising it.
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor David Dinsmore reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers Age of Ultron 'after credits' scene leaks online days before cinema release
Groundhog Day musical to premiere at Old Vic from Matilda theatre director
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate