Edinburgh festival / Curlew River

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The Independent Culture
Curlew River

In their Festival production, Edinburgh's recently-formed St John's Chamber Opera Company staged Britten's church parable simply, with suggestions of Japanese influence in masks and a pebble-strewn stage - in keeping with, though not recreating literally, the composer's original intentions. A cast of strong singers, with an instrumental ensemble of soloists, coped almost flawlessly with the tricky demands of Britten's conductorless, improvisatory textures.

Ian Ainsworth and Robin Greenway were impressive as Abbot and Ferryman, while Duncan Russell's voice of the Spirit of the Boy soared thrillingly at the emotional climax of the piece. Most memorable of all was the touching portrayal of the Madwoman by Douglas Telfer, who sang and acted with searing effect. One might quibble at small points like the Spirit's odd doll-like teeterings, or the curiously inadequate sail, but the overall result was an intensely contemplative and moving experience, and one which bodes well for the future of this young company.

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