The Secret Consul, Limehouse Town Hall
Friday 24 June 2011
‘A guerrilla opera staged at a secret location’ said the Wedding Collective’s handbill, and the location turned out to be Limehouse Town Hall, once home to the labour-history museum, now inhabited by artists.
Battered suitcases littered the entrance, which was decorated with Russian newspapers and passport photographs, and there was an interesting buzz with people waiting and waiting, some of whom were punters, while others – one couldn’t tell who – were apparently members of the chorus; three secretaries stalked through the crowd, sticking barcodes on people’s jackets. ‘He’s very busy,’ they kept saying. ‘He may issue no papers today.’
Welcome to the world of The Consul, unseen evil genius of Gian-Carlo Menotti’s opera of that name, with ‘secret’ added to heighten the melodrama. A little quartet struck up – violin, cello, clarinet, keyboard – and a young man burst into song and did a conjuring trick: very classy, but for no apparent reason. Then we were herded into the council chamber upstairs.
The essence of Menotti’s once-popular opera – in 1950 he was still daring to write tunes – consists of Magda Sorel’s Kakfkaesque quest to save her husband from the secret police; she fails, her baby dies, and she commits suicide. Director Stephen Tiller and music director Andrew Charity – responsible for last year’s Olivier-winning ‘Boheme’ – have given the whole thing a queasily contemporary slant, evoking with interrogations and torturings a world of stateless beings and their tormentors.
On the minus side, this hour of music-drama was intermittently impenetrable, partly thanks to foggy direction, partly because some singers had poor diction, and partly because we only got two-fifths of the original work. One needs more from a libretto than generalised paranoia.
Yet the musicians brought out all the discreet menace of Menotti’s score, and the mixed cast of professionals and amateurs created a burningly intense atmosphere: this was real theatre, well-suited to its mysteriously seedy setting. When Magda loses her child, a young chorus member (Ayten Soylu) leads her away from its corpse with a Turkish lament of haunting peasant plangency; Magda herself is sung by the Ukrainian soprano Lesya Aleksyeyeva, who brings to the role dramatic conviction, vocal artistry, and at one point a lovely Ukrainian folk-song. This intriguingly homespun show runs to July 16, and is definitely worth catching.
An enlightening finale for Don DraperTV
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 JK Rowling horrified by Harry Potter actor Matthew Lewis's raunchy photoshoot
- 2 As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
- 3 Georgia Army veteran arrested for breaking window to save dog has charges dropped
- 4 New Zealand 'the best country to work as a prostitute', says sex worker advocacy group
- 5 Melissa McCarthy's brilliant response to one sexist question posed to her on the red carpet by a male reporter
Cannes Film Festival rejects women from red-carpet screening of pro-LGBT romance 'Carol' for not wearing high heels
Game of Thrones rape scene criticised as 'disgusting' by US senator Claire McCaskill who says she's 'done' with show
Beyonce angers fans by pouring expensive champagne into hot tub in Nicki Minaj 'Feeling Myself' video
Love, Cannes film review: Visceral brilliance sets Gasper Noé drama apart from standard porn
Game of Thrones: 10 most controversial moments amid beheadings, blood and incest
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
Report finds that Britain's wages are the most unequal in Europe
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
Labour leadership: Battle lines are drawn as members battle over party's ideology at first hustings of the contest
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland