MUSIC / On Classical Music

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Indy Lifestyle Online
To be frank, it isn't often that a new opera is meant to be fun, rather than unintentionally funny. Craig's Progress will change all that if it lives up to its scenario. Launched on Wednesday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the current Meltdown festival, it features comic-strip characters, baddies, goodies and Greek gods in business suits. Craig, the hero, sets out on his quest from the ice rink in New York's Rockefeller Center. By the end, the comic people have turned into real ones. Look out for thought bubbles and threats from outer space - and even a meltdown.

The writer of this story is Stephen Pruslin, who is more familiar as a pianist but in a previous life (is fiction becoming reality?) was also the librettist of Harrison Birtwistle's Punch and Judy. The music for Craig's Progress is about as far from Birtwistle as can be, composed by Martin Butler, whose gift is for harmony and wit, teasing the ear without insulting the brain. If the experience turns out to be habit-forming then the times are propitious, since the Almeida Opera festival follows close on, and will be introducing The Nightingale and the Rose by Elena Firsova, and Siren Song by Jonathan Dove. No jokes expected this time, but plenty of emotion and drama, and since these are also composers who seek to engage listeners rather than assault them, the prospects are inviting for many more than the hard-core new-music crowd.

Craig's Progress, QEH, 7pm, 29 June (071-928 8800)

The Nightingale and the Rose, Almeida Theatre, 8pm, 8,11,16,18,20 July (usual Almeida box off); Siren Song, 15,17,19,22,23 July

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