Babur in London, The Haymarket, Basingstoke

3.00

 

"I think opera needs to be part of the cultural landscape... If we
only make opera about Martians who live on the moon, then it's
deeply unsatisfactory." So believes John Fulljames directing Babur
in London
, his last production for The Opera Group before joining
the Royal Opera House. The uncompromising slice of reality
premiered at Basingstoke pending a countrywide tour before hitting
India concerns four homegrown terrorists Mo, Faiz, Nafisa and Saira
on the eve of their suicide mission. Strangely, considering the
project's extensive consultations with Islamic scholars to avoid
offence, celluloid has been there ahead of them with Chris Morris's
2010 achingly funny and touching Four Lions, about four incompetent
British jihadists. 

Jeet Thayil, the Indian poet-librettist, however, is not after all-out belly laughs, although he permits himself a few sly smiles at youthful earnestness. Much of the humour arrives in the expansive shape of the ghost of Babur, first Mughal emperor, bloodthirsty warrior and intellectual poet, incarnated with great gusto by Omar Ebrahim. The serious young Muslims are scandalised by his drunkenness and opium habit, while he taunts them with their ignorance of the Koran's praise of wine, and accuses them of being "children playing at battle, in love with death". He points out that suicide and murder are sins and announces darkly they "will be unwelcome in paradise".      

The composer is Edward Rushton, born in 1972 and now resident in Zurich, who already has a stream of well-received works and a number of chamber operas commissioned by the Opera Group to his name. Here an imaginative vocal line is supported by cello, double bass, flute, electric guitar, and percussion, through which shimmer wisps and quotes from other composers −Britten's swooping cello lines, a snatch from Haydn, an ecstatic vocalise when Faiz and Saira make love.      

It's indisputably accomplished, and superbly sung by sopranos Annie Gill and Kishani Jayasinghe with Damian Thantrey as the embittered Faiz. But one rather feels the piece has bitten off more than it can dramatically resolve within its chosen scope and scale. Babur's role dissolves into ambiguity (seducer? agent provocateur?), mini human dramas are evoked but never get a chance to take proper hold of the emotions, and occasionally musical intensity seems to meander independently of the narrative thread. "Life is confusion" sings Saira; well, it certainly is here.

On tour to Leeds, Birmingham, Oxford, London, Hull, Cheltenham www.theoperagroup.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week