Operashots: The Tell-Tale Heart/The Doctor’s Tale, Royal Opera Linbury Studio Theatre, London
Pop and film graduates jump genres in a compelling juxtaposition in styles
Saturday 09 April 2011
Whether by design or accident this latest “double” in the Royal Opera’s
Operashots project hit us with the most compelling of juxtapositions. Both composers – Stewart Copeland and Oscar winner Anne Dudley – hailed latterly from the movies but by no means exclusively so: she was a founder member of Art of Noise, he was the drummer of The Police. But both of them took to the stage with an innate sense of what music theatre needs to do and both found a way in that was true to their own distinctive sensibilities and no one else’s.
Copeland’s second shot at Edgar Allan Poe – The Tell-Tale Heart – took Victorian melodrama as his lead. In Jonathan Moore's convulsive “silent movie” staging (all attitude and louring shadows) Soutra Gilmour’s design turned the “scene of the crime” into a grubby music hall stage, hooded footlights and all. Through Richard Suart’s white faced, shock-headed, protagonist Edgar (who else?) and his inner-self Alan (Philip Sheffield) Copeland shrewdly blurred the boundaries between speech and song either doubling or echoing Edgar’s tortuous journey to self-incrimination with the shrill operatic protestations of two nosey neighbours (Eileen Hulse and Fiona Kimm) creepily visible through the walls of the murder room.
Suart’s sharp and insinuating enunciation occasionally took the vocal line into sung notes and phrases but mostly Copeland perpetuated the stentorian tone of melodrama underscoring it with a febrile piano and percussion led combo whose louche jazz inflections accentuated the sleaziness whilst slightly wrong-footing us musically. Assorted glissandi in strings and timpani only added to the queasiness - and when, at last, Edgar ripped the victim’s heart from beneath the floorboards the method really did descend into madness.
So just as Stewart Copeland didn’t strive to sound like Benjamin Britten so Anne Dudley wasn’t about to subvert her natural way with flowing lyricism and a sharp wit. There is nothing harder to write than comedy and armed with Terry Jones’ punning libretto for The Doctor’s Tale she didn’t just home in on the comedic absurdity of the popular general practitioner threatened with being “struck off” (in more ways than one) because he’s a dog but rather sought to uncover the charm and pathos that might counterbalance the profusion of references to “cat scans” and the Isle of Dogs.
Jones gave Dudley the means to do that, opening with a trio of smitten patients extolling Doctor Scout (Darren Abrahams tireless in the high tessitura of the role) as “Doctor Right, alright” where Dudley’s eminently singable solos (gorgeous, actually) and their combined counterpoint hinted at more than a passing homage to Sondheim graduating later to a bluesy trio in the dog pound where she deftly managed to incorporate a howl or two into the vocal lines. Her skilful way with the orchestra is well known from her movie scores but here she tweaked a chamber ensemble – Orchestra Chroma - with telling resourcefulness. Really, she should write a musical.
Which brings me to one last point. If Operashots really seeks new perspectives on contemporary opera then it needs to embrace the broadest possible view of music theatre and investigate the profusion of talent that is alive and well and working under the auspices of organisations like Mercury Musical Developments. Actually one of their number, Tim Sutton, was playing piano in the Copeland.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election