Sunday, 30 June 2013

Gloriana, Royal Opera

A second trip to the cinema in as many years to see a staged production relayed live, I was pleased to get an opportunity to see Britten's Gloriana in this the composer's centenary year. The Royal Opera has turned to one of its most reliable directorial collaborators, Richard Jones, to create a production that will not only make the famously unsuccessful drama live but also rehabilitate it. Without giving too much away - especially for those familiar with Jones' fondness for meta-drama and actual physical staging-within-staging - the set-piece forms and solipsist-narrative to be found in the piece are grist to the director's mill, especially in this the 60th anniversary year of the coronation.

I saw the relay in the reliable, beautiful Curzon Mayfair. Like the last time I went to see such an event, facsimilie copies of the cast lists available at the Royal Opera House were available... and music irrelevant to the production was played in all the gaps. I have less of an issue as I have done previously as I am becoming inured to the vernacular of such a screening. I think that the short introductions and descriptions that bookend the relay proper are tastefully done too.

The broadcast is well (i.e. discreetly) directed, especially as - as I have already alluded to - it is particularly necessary to keep all the stage, including the periphery in view if not at all times then regularly. Most important in this respect was 'the spirit of the dance', played by Andrew Tortise, strongly sung but, moreover, utterly engaged throughout as an anxious director mounting the historical masque concerning Elizabeth I for an audience that includes her successor. In a touch of unstinting detail, the assistant chorus master of the Royal Opera Stephen Westrop took to the stage in academic gown to conduct the choral dances.

Susan Bullock was wonderful as the queen herself, interior focus as the isolated monarch a real benefit of the camera close-up. Toby Spence as her lover Essex was credible... as was Essex's wife, played as a 3-D deer in headlights by Patricia Bardon. Elsewhere Brindley Sherratt as the minstrel and David Butt-Philip as the Master of Ceremonies (extraordinary costumes both) made much of minute parts.

The opera suffers from trying to be too many things for too many purposes. Yet there is good music within. It doesn't make for a comprehensively satisfying evening's opera but this production does it great service.