The Corridor, Aldeburgh Festival, Aldeburgh
Tuesday 16 June 2009
What better way to inaugurate the new studio at Snape Maltings, and open the 62nd Aldeburgh Festival, than a double-bill of new music theatre by that giant of the British musical scene, Harrison Birtwistle?
When The Corridor – the composer's return to the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice – was literally just a dream, the transformation of a derelict former malt kiln into a studio, workshops and rehearsal space was at a similarly embryonic stage. Both projects reached a fruitful conclusion so that, in its first year under the artistic direction of the quirky French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Benjamin Britten's festival by the Suffolk sea and marshes can happily celebrate two notable openings.
It was from a single image from the Orpheus tale – a man and a woman confined in a long corridor, she the subject of his fateful backwards glance – that Birtwistle brought the plight of the woman who died twice to new life. In The Corridor, Birtwistle now gives us the ironic viewpoint of "the Woman" (Eurydice), with "the Man" (Orpheus) sidelined dramatically, though by no means musically. "He's a bit of a bore is Orpheus!" says Birtwistle, though not when expressed as plangently as by the tenor Mark Padmore.
The Woman traverses a kind of passageway, a narrow red strip linking the land of the living with the underworld. It snakes around players from the London Sinfonietta who double as the "Shades" and with whom Eurydice converses. Startling, inventive and compelling, the soprano Elizabeth Atherton inhabits the role of Eurydice with an assuredness that suggests a deep understanding of the part, while the six instrumentalists enter subtly and without any awkwardness into the action. The exquisite colouring of Birtwistle's score matches the spirit of David Harsent's words and Peter Gill's staging is wonderfully understated.
In the opening work, "Semper Dowland, semper dolens" – Birtwistle's ruminative take on the melancholy passion of John Dowland – the conductor Ryan Wigglesworth drew refined and gracefully graded textures in arrangements of seven pavanes while Padmore, accompanied by a harp, made a most persuasive case for Dowland's doleful, poignant songs.
17, 18 June (01728 687110); then 6, 7 July, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 (0871 663 2500; www.southbankcentre.co.uk )
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Man who was struck and killed by lightning in Brecon Beacons 'was carrying a selfie stick'
- 2 Lisa Randolph-Gant: Queen Elsa cake maker says she will carry on baking and will not let people 'break her spirit'
- 3 Tube strike: This pedestrian-friendly map tells you the time it takes to walk between stations
- 4 Pamplona Running of the Bulls 2015: Three men gored and 10 hospitalised on first day of festival
- 5 Sarah Jessica Parker explains why she is not a feminist: 'It's not just about women now'
Artist Milo Moire arrested in Paris for taking naked selfies with passers-by in front of the Eiffel Tower
Is Jon Snow dead? Theories stoked by Kit Harrington's longer hair despite Game of Thrones director claiming he's 'deader than dead'
Noel Gallagher actually gives Kanye West some credit for his Glastonbury headline set: 'For half an hour it was as good as it gets'
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas run through Google's Deep Dream neural network is pure nightmare fuel
Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
Greece debt crisis: Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande issue Athens with 24-hour ultimatum to avoid crashing out of the euro
Greece crisis: Referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its lack of genuine legitimacy