OPERA / Kids' stuff: Falstaff - English National Opera
Saturday 19 February 1994
Children and opera: a tricky combination. I know several people who, forced to attend as children, developed a permanent allergy to opera. Yet many develop operaphilia at an early age. How encourage the one without alienating the other?
Most of the children on the day I attended the Baylis project at least enjoyed getting out of the classroom. Well prepared, they seemed to grasp what was afoot, as they divided into four groups, each assigned to a different character from the opera in a different part of the house. And when it came to throwing Falstaff out with the dirty laundry, or tormenting him in the forest, they certainly went at it with a will.
I'd been hoping for a little Bash Street-style disruptiveness, but the children were terribly well-behaved. None of them seemed in the least interested in the Russian TV crew filming proceedings. Perhaps children aren't all obsessed with television. Nor did any seem dismayed by sudden switches from spoken conversation to musical performance. Perhaps children see singing as a natural way to communicate, and only when we put aside 'childish' things does opera come to seem irrational.
I doubt whether the workshops should be seen as preparation for the 'real' thing: they have their own validity. Still, the children will attend the Coliseum production, and perhaps they will be enchanted, not least by the scurryings and scamperings in Windsor Forest, where imaginative lighting and a willingness to treat the opera playfully, even childishly, show ENO at its most magical.
This revival is in good shape, and in one respect at least works better than on its last outing: then, Benjamin Luxon's Falstaff was wayward, colourless. Now the voice is in much better condition, even if vehemence occasionally substitutes for vocal finesse. Making his Coliseum debut, Andrew Litton conducts with winning brashness, allowing the brass to be as assertive and rotund as Falstaff's roomy belly. A good show, then: I wonder if it would be fair to add that old tag, 'for children of all ages'?
In rep at the London Coliseum (071-836 3161) to 29 March
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
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling