Tangier Tattoo, Glyndebourne, East Sussex

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The Independent Culture

The problem lies in the mix of music and drama. With its topical themes of drug-running and terrorism, the plot is sharp and smart, if initially slow-burning, and Plaice's libretto is promising. But what it needs are stronger musical numbers, by which I mean songs.

For much of Act I, John Lunn's slick, Eastern-tinged underscoring meandered along atmospherically, its seductive string refrain redolent of Bond scores. But when its catchy riffs did evolve into "numbers", it was half-heartedly. By the end of Act I, a big set-piece for the Detective (Omar Ebrahim) had left off where it should have taken off, and a promising duet for hero Nick (Roland Davitt) and heroine Nadine (Katherine Rohrer) simply petered out.

And what of that crucial dynamic between speech and song? The opening sequence, through to the arrival of shooters on scooters, was pure "melodrama", speech over underscoring - way more effective than the awkwardly through-sung dialogue that followed. Operatic voices just don't do colloquialism. They don't do hip and cool. Singing should raise the emotional stakes, not lower them.

Part two was a lot better. Songs did emerge: an aria for the drug-dealer Rachid (a resonant Rodney Clarke); a haunting duet; and a sad song for beach vendor Idris (Rachid Sabitri) that just needed stronger voicing. But the ensemble numbers were pretty po-faced terrible, almost an after-thought. It could have been so much better. The raw materials were all there. Stephen Langridge's efficient staging moved well through Alison Chitty's revolving labyrinth, which seemed as though built with giant matchsticks.

Davitt and Rohrer looked and sounded good, and the latter has star-quality. Her identity crisis needed an 11 o'clock number. By nine, it hadn't arrived. It never did.

At Glyndebourne to Saturday, then touring to 17 December (01273 814686)

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