Clemency – Chamber opera to a libretto by Michael Symmons Roberts [Co-commissioned by ROH2 with Scottish Opera, Britten Sinfonia and Boston Lyric Opera: world premiere]
Sarah – Janis Kelly
Abraham – Grant Doyle
Triplets – Adam Green, Eamonn Mulhall & Andrew Tortise
Katie Mitchell – Director
Alex Eales – Designs
John Bright – Costume designs
Jon Clark – Lighting
Reviewed by: Peter Reed
Reviewed: 7 May, 2011
Venue: Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Katie Mitchell’s production is contemporary miserabilist – gritty, you might call it; Alex Eales’s set was like a hinged altar triptych, so that whatever was going on in each frame was presented as a picture, and dignified with a timeless quality.On the evidence of “Parthenogenesis”, MacMillan and Roberts are very good at folding in any numbers of layers into their work and letting them find their own resonance. In “Clemency”, though, much of the libretto was lost in the singing – Abraham had a long opening solo, supposedly in made-up Aramaic, and apparently there were other passages in cod-Latin , but much of it could have been in double-Dutch for all you could make out the words. MacMillan has scored it for string orchestra, and that sound comes packed with particularly English, pastoral associations. Apart from some obviously Arabian Nights-style emblematic inflections, the music had the powerful flavour of Vaughan Williams or Tippett in assertively mystic/ecstatic mode. MacMillan is a fine writer for voices and a vivid reactor to words and images, but I have still to discern an unmistakable style.
Grant Doyle was a powerful vocal and stage presence, and breezed through the demands the music made of him. Janis Kelly was a formidable Sarah (as indeed Sarah is in the Bible – she was quite a matriarchal handful) and delivered a sympathetic and dramatic performance. The two-tenors, one-baritone trio of angels were vividly realised and chillingly evoked the power of blind faith. Clark Rundell conducted with a feel for the score’s immediacy, and there are some fine players in the Britten Sinfonia.
- Further performances at 7.45 p.m. until Saturday 14 May [no performances on 10 & 13]
- Box office: 020 7304 4000
- Royal Opera