Miss Fortune, Royal Opera House
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.
Tuesday 13 March 2012
Miss Fortune in name and deed. Sad to say but Judith Weir’s sixth opera is an embarrassment.
Sad because Weir’s folk inspired fables have won many friends, sad because she is a composerly composer whose luminous orchestral backdrops and singable vocal lines display an honest talent that never hides behind overworked technique. But Miss Fortune is warm and fuzzy where it should be hard and edgy, it’s a social fable with contemporary resonances in everything but its words and music, and worst of all it’s an adult opera which sounds like it’s spoon feeding amateur philosophy to a child. Silly and naive.
So, turning convention on its head, we’ve a fatalistic riches-to-rags tale transposed from a Sicilian original and relocated in time and place to take account of the financial ills and social unrest of the here and now. At least that was Weir’s intention - to be relevant and “in touch”. But when the once wealthy Tina (a self-consciously red-headed but vocally resolute Emma Bell) turns on Fate (a wasted Andrew Watts) and halfway through this short and pointless evening enquires: “Was it you who turned my life upside down?” we know we’ve come precisely nowhere very fast. This is a libretto which vacillates between the banal and the unintentionally comedic (or is that irony?) full of truisms and clunky metaphors and for all its images of deprivation and violent disorder is about as streetwise as a visitor from Venus. For Rap read rhyming couplets.
The much-publicised breakdancers of Chen Shi-Zeng’s efficient but actually rudimentary staging only serve to highlight how irrelevant Weir’s musical language is to her conception. Queasy chromatic scales rising and falling in the trombones is as close as we get to the “dark happenings” on the street. One of these days someone might actually commission one of the many young composers at the sharp end of musical theatre - creative song writers with their finger on the pulse of contemporary living.
Everything about Miss Fortune is benign and comfortable - even Tom Pye’s eye-catching geometric designs are thoroughly alienating, a garment sweatshop spotless and sanitised like the Royal Opera have re-deployed the “spinning chorus” from their last production of The Flying Dutchman. And the greatest irony of all - Miss Fortune wins the lottery. Indeed it has. What a waste of talent and resources.
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
'Sinful': Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy comes under attack
An open letter to Nigel Farage: you may smile, but I am not seduced
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Abdullah Deghayes: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager killed in Syria conflict
- 1 ‘Leeds is on fire’: Huge chemical-fuelled blaze on Armley industrial estate leads to hazardous smoke warning for city
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 Queen turns 88: David Bailey captures another side of the Queen in birthday portrait
- 4 Loch Ness Monster found on Apple Maps?
- 5 Criminals ‘using unmanned drones and infrared cameras to find illegal cannabis farms’ – and then steal from the growers