Lost Highway, English National Opera, Young Vic, London
Freiburg Baroque/Bernarda Fink, Barbican Hall, London

It's soulless va va voom, this sex on a motorbike: A David Lynch film turned opera – heaven for fans, but what about everyone else?

English National Opera's season at the Young Vic opened on a balmy gust of borrowed cool. With a guaranteed audience of David Lynch fans and a run of only six performances, Olga Neuwirth's 2003 opera Lost Highway was no loss-leader. Whether this ultra-faithful reworking of the 1997 movie had much to offer those who do not warm to Lynch's work is another matter.

Opera is not exactly short of the tormented loners, twisted brutes, hopeless dupes and frigid femme fatales that populate his films, nor is it a stranger to nihilism, noir and surrealism. Think of Lynch's version of Lost Highway and it's not the dialogue you remember, nor the narrative, nor the relationships, but the colours, the bluebottle buzz of distorted sound.

Diane Paulus's bold, slick staging had cinematic clarity. The movement was tight, the design (Riccardo Hernandez) Eighties in flavour, with a suspended Perspex cube as prison cell and luxury home. But Neuwirth's fastidious music jarred with the brash visual notes of electric blue and scarlet, the mechanistic bump and grind of the porn on the video screens, the soulless va-va-voom of sex-on-a-motorbike and sex-on-a-car, and the cynical voguing of the party guests. As in the original, neither Neuwirth nor her librettist Elfriede Jelinek solicit any sympathy for Fred (Mark Bonnar), Pete (Quirijn de Lang), Renee/ Alice (Valérie MacCarthy), or Mr Eddy/Dick Laurent (David Moss). Sooner or later, they all end up like summer pudding.

So what of the score? Shreds of Carissimi slide languidly into half-heard lines from a Broadway standard, a Purcellian dying fall, Mahleresque cadences, generic jazz riffs from trumpet and sax, a yawn of slide guitar, skeletal stirrings of percussion, a sudden conflagration of knotted, humid bass, a pregnant wash of ambivalent, green-blue chords. In appropriating other people's songs, Neuwirth is backgrounding herself, but the minutely wrought joins and merges of live and recorded sound are themselves often mesmerising and were, under conductor Baldur Brönnimann and sound-designer Markus Noisternig, immaculately dovetailed.

Less distinctive is Neuwirth's vocal writing. Much of the libretto is spoken, shouted, intoned or murmured, while the stand-out arias – or anti-arias – are Mr Eddy's snarled, whooped and lisped monologues: a bravura mash of sprechgesang, fairground barking and performance poetry. I left impressed by Paulus's stagecraft, Moss's energy and MacCarthy's figure, but perplexed by the experience of spending 90 minutes listening to a composer who seems determined to remain unheard.

Freiburg Baroque should consider a name-change. Now 20 years old, the orchestra has established an unimpeachable reputation in the Classical style – its recording of Haydn's Le Matin, Le Midi and Le Soir is sublime – but plays Bach with less verve, wit and dynamism than an ad hoc band of so-so modern strings. You know you're in trouble when the most expressive phrasing comes from the bassoon, as was the case in last weekend's Barbican recital of Geist und Seele wird verwirret (BWV 35) and Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust (BWV 170). Bernarda Fink's poised, candid, beautifully coloured singing failed to conceal a pedestrian instrumental performance. The ensemble was shaky in the cantatas and even worse in the B minor Orchestral Suite (BWV 1067). Bass-notes were uniformly short, the tempi hesitant, the gaps between movements awkward.

While Wolfgang Zerer's organ solos were prettily turned, his harpsichord playing was utterly bloodless in its brisk, regular spread chords. From strings and keyboard alike, there was no swirl, no punch, no gallanterie, no acknowledgement of the French influence on the Suite, or the Italian influence on the Sinfonia from Non sa che sia dolore (BWV 209) and the Concerto for Violin and Oboe (BWV 1060). Never has Bach sounded so provincial.

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine