Memoires D'Une Jeune Fille Triste, Grand Théâtre, Geneva

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As her mesmerising performance in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites confirmed, Joan Rodgers is one of Britain's most striking operatic singers. She shares: her dreams and anxieties rapidly become ours.

As her mesmerising performance in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites confirmed, Joan Rodgers is one of Britain's most striking operatic singers. She shares: her dreams and anxieties rapidly become ours.

Both abounded in the world premiere of Xavier Dayer's one-act opera Mémoires d'une jeune fille triste, staged with vision and flair for Geneva Opera by the German director Nicolas Brieger. The girl of the title, a figure culled from Menina e Moca, a novel by the 16th-century Portuguese writer Bernardim Ribeiro, finds herself exiled, or self-exiled, in mountainous terrain - supplanted here by the designer Raimund Baier by a huge book-lined room, like a repository of dark memories. A railway line pokes surreally into her surroundings, like a route to a subconscious that the girl has awkwardly suppressed.

The jeune fille's troubled memories are re-evoked in ghoulish marionette shows devised as compact masques, embracing three traumatic stages in the life of a single family from the novel. These elements - death by accident or in childbirth, separation, a hovering old crone, ugly, foetus-like children, stymied relationships - chime with the central figure's anguish. When she finally escapes, purged and restored, it feels like a gateway to a new life.

This sort of interior landscape of the distraught soul is one of Dayer's preoccupations: his music is aptly strange, mysterious, dreamlike. Though he studied with Murail and Ferneyhough he has evolved his own language, in music of strange meetings and partings, subtle mirrorings and echoings, and what he terms musical ivresse (drunkenness), subtly evoked in beautiful shadings of string, woodwind and wistful percussion. Fine playing from the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande under Patrick Davin wove a spell of eerie magic throughout.

No less dazzling were Dayer's ensembles: a brilliantly honed semichorus interacts with the jeune fille, infilling Rodgers's narrative and adding new solo layers.

The result is a strange mélange - knotty, obsessive, almost wantonly elusive. Yet time and again, Brieger's eye-beguiling imagery communicated with compelling power and intensity.

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