Classical reviews: Miss Julie Theatre Royal, Norwich
Friday 17 October 1997
Alwyn himself wrote the libretto, paring down Strindberg's already concise drama to its barest essentials. He leaves out the ballet and chorus, but introduces an extra character - Ulrik, a bawdy drunken gamekeeper - as a cynical, chorus-like commentator on the scene.
Vocally, Alwyn set the text to "adhere to the rhythm and inflexion of human speech", to use his own words. This works successfully for most of the time. The text is almost always audible, and much of the vocal writing is extremely effective. The valet Jean's high baritone captures his assertive self-confidence: passionate lyricism and high-leaping intervals emphasise Miss Julie's volatile insecurity.
Away from moments of dramatic intensity, however, the vocal line can sound very angular. In the interests of clarity, Alwyn has eschewed ensembles wherever possible, although when they do occur - as in the brief trio in Act 2 between Jean, Ulrik, and Kristin, the cook - the writing is very effective.
As one would expect from such an experienced composer (best known for his film scores, including Odd Man Out, The Fallen Idol and The History of Mr Polly), it is a good score, firmly rooted in the early 20th century, with more than a whiff of Strauss, Janacek and, especially, Ravel. But the orchestra does often appear to bombard the vocal line with too many musical ideas of its own, distracting one's mind from the narrative flow.
In Ben Luxon and Peter Wilson's excellent production, it makes for an extremely effective piece of music drama. Judith Howarth as Miss Julie and Karl Daymond as Jean sang superbly, easily projecting over the rich scoring, their impressive stage presence heightened by Hollywood good looks. Excellent singing and characterisation too from Fiona Kimm's cook and Ian Caley's Ulrik, and fine playing from the Britten Sinfonia under Nicholas Cleobury.
Whether it has to wait another 20 years for its next staging is anyone's guess. At just under two and a half hours, it's a trifle short for a full- length opera and a little too long for a double-bill, but, on this showing, a good piece of theatre.
Second performance, 7.30pm tomorrow, Theatre Royal, Norwich. Booking: 01603 630000
Life & Style blogs
City traders pay £200 for a quick hangover cure
Stephen Hawking: NHS is Britain's finest public service and must be preserved from commercial interests
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
The Pirate Bay is back — but key staff have left to start a rival site
Eight-year-old girl Camilla Lisant suggests possible cancer treatment to her scientist father over the dinner table
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
- 5 Benedict Cumberbatch's Alan Turing gay-rights campaign snubbed by Prince William and Kate Middleton
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...
£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...
£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...