Opera: Iphigenia in Aulis Opera North, Leeds

Gluck wrote Iphigenie en Aulide at the age of 60, without a commission - for himself, in effect. Later, it was accepted for Paris, where its novelty seemed threatening: the management worried that "such a work is calculated to kill off our old French opera". Two hundred and twenty- two years after the first night, it emerges in Tim Hopkins's new production for Opera North as a remarkable, disturbing work.

The heroine comes to Aulis to marry the hero Achilles. First her father lies to her, saying that Achilles has already been unfaithful, then the goddess Diana demands that her father sacrifice her, so that the Greek fleet can set sail for Troy. Having accepted her fate, at the last minute her life is saved. "How sweet, but how difficult," she says, "to pass so suddenly from the most cruel torment to supreme happiness." The opera ends with a sinister hymn to war, whose music surely sounded as gloomy in 1774 as it does now.

For all its eccentricities, Opera North's new staging never gets in the way of the music. The conductor, Valentin Reymond, led an intense, occasionally brusque interpretation. By the start of Act 3, the orchestra was in such good form (horns excepted) that we welcomed the chance to hear the Passecaille, even if Gluck never meant it to go there and, like all the dance music, it went undanced (for obvious financial reasons).

The aesthetic of its designer, Nigel Lowery, borrows playfully from that of the poster and cartoon strip, but it is so alive, so convinced of its own purposiveness, that it seizes the spectator in a vice-like grip. Achilles waved a sword and wore a tunic that made him look like the Daily Express nerdy crusader logo, yet Neill Archer made him into a coherent character. Like most of the cast, he did his very best with a role that nature had not equipped him to sing: it is an impossibly high tenor role. Lynne Dawson was suffering from the after-effects of a chest infection and her performance in the title role had a touching, apt fragility. As her father and putative murderer, Agamemnon, Christopher Purves made a very auspicious company debut. Much of the role of her mother, Clytemnestra, lies rather high for Della Jones but, as always, she made the most of all her opportunities. In sunglasses and fake fur trim, she scored a considerable hit. Her appeal to the gods in Act 3 was one of the evening's highlights.

The production scored one invaluable point: we need to see more of this opera. It calls for and deserves to be cast with great singers. Audiences in Leeds and on tour should not miss this rare chance to see a work that is, for once, as remarkable as it is neglected.

n At Leeds Grand Theatre 5, 9 and 11 Oct (0113 245 5326)

ANTONY PEATTIE

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks