Tag Archives: Matthew Richardson

NEWS: OPERAVISION TO STREAM FULL PERFORMANCE OF SCOTTISH OPERA’S ANTHROPOCENE IN MAY

Anthropocene, the acclaimed new work commissioned by Scottish Opera from composer Stuart MacRae and librettist Louise Welsh, will be available to watch on OperaVision from May.

Directed by Matthew Richardson, designed by Samal Blak and conducted by Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford, Anthropocene had its world premiere in January at Theatre Royal Glasgow, and tells the story of an expeditionary team of scientists who become trapped in the frozen Arctic wastelands.

The film of Anthropocene, directed for OperaVision by Jonathan Haswell and produced by Andrew Lockyer, was made at a performance at London’s Hackney Empire, on 9 February. The full performance will be available to view worldwide on the free streaming platform from 17 May to 17 November, and is the first time a Scottish Opera production has been featured on OperaVision.

Launched in 2017, OperaVision – curated by Opera Europa, the European association of opera companies and festivals – streams performances from all over the world, allowing viewers to watch productions from the greatest European opera houses from the comfort of their own home. As well as full-length performances shown with subtitles, it features extracts, interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Anthropocene’s superb ensemble cast includes former Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Jennifer France (Ariadne auf Naxos 2018), Scottish soprano Jeni Bern and Stephen Gadd (Rigoletto 2018.) They are joined by Benedict Nelson (The Burning Fiery Furnace 2018), Mark Le Brocq, Paul Whelan, Anthony Gregory and Sarah Champion (Opera Highlights 2018).

Anthropocene is the fourth collaboration between MacRae and Welsh, a fruitful partnership initially born of Scottish Opera’s Five:15 Opera Made in Scotland series, which paired composers and librettists to create five 15-minute operas. The composer-librettist team went on to create Remembrance Day in 2009, Ghost Patrol in 2012, which won a South Bank Sky Arts Award and was nominated for an Olivier Award, and 2016’s The Devil Inside, based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Inverness-born MacRae’s work has been performed at the Royal Opera House and Edinburgh International Festival, and by ensembles including Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Hebrides Ensemble. He is currently Composer in Association at Lammermuir Festival.

A Professor of Creative Writing at University of Glasgow, Welsh is the author of a number of popular novels including award-winning The Cutting Room and Plague Times Trilogy.

Scottish Opera General Director Alex Reedijk said: ‘This film of Anthropocene by OperaVision is a very important first for Scottish Opera. Performing at Hackney Empire was a double win for us, as it brought Anthropocene to a London audience and, through this film shot there, allows us to introduce this exciting new work to an international audience. It’s a great opportunity to show off the incredible work of Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh, who are such an important part of Scottish Opera’s history, as well as the talented cast and The Orchestra of Scottish Opera.’

Nicholas Payne, Opera Europa Director said: ‘Anthropocene grabbed me from the start and held me throughout with the twists and changes of its riveting story. Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh skilfully deploy music and words to create tension. They do not preach to us in the audience, but we are compelled to reflect on its relevance to our contemporary world. Chilling!’

Anthropocene is available to watch from 17 May at https://operavision.eu/en

REVIEW: Anthropocene – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh’s fourth work for Scottish Opera (and their first full-length opera) received its world premiere in Glasgow last night. While Anthropocene delivers on many levels, it isn’t quite the perfect package…yet. There’s fantastic potential for thrills and chills both dramatically and musically, but there’s an overriding feeling that the narrative and expected tension of the subject matter has been sacrificed due to uneven pacing.

Entrepreneur Harry King has financed a polar expedition on his state of the art vessel, King’s Anthropocene, an expedition to explore the origins of life on earth. As the ice encroaches, the team become trapped, tensions rise among the small crew and an eerie discovery emerges from the frozen depths.

While Act One firmly establishes each character, it outstays its welcome by a good twenty minutes: there’s unnecessary repetitive padding of the libretto and a uniform musical tone that fails to grip. On the reverse side, its final act comes to its denouement at a break-neck speed. That said there are some hauntingly beautiful musical moments, most particularly at the hands of Jennifer France as the being from the ice. Her gorgeous, ethereal soprano sends shivers down the spine. Less successful both dramatically and vocally are Mark Le Brocq’s Harry King and Sarah Champion as King’s daughter Daisy – each is underpowered vocally and over-acting dramatically.

Samal Blak’s set and costume design, while functional, lacks the necessary detail that keeps the attention for the duration of a full-length work. Matthew Richardson’s direction is functional rather than original or thrilling.

The explorational of our Anthropocene age, science and technology interwoven with ancient beliefs and a touch of Frankenstein, all seem thrilling on paper, and it would have been a stunner had the dramatic potential been fully exploited. It feels like a case of what might have been.

Runs until 26 January at The Theatre Royal, Glasgow, then tours to The King’s Theatre, Edinburgh and the Hackney Empire, London.

IMAGES: James Glossop

 

 

REVIEW: Greek – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Based on Steven Berkoff’s riff on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Greek has fast forwarded the story from Thebes, 429 BC to the Tufnell Park in the 1980s.

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s work, while labelled as modern opera is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and while the shock of the new may have worn off in the intervening years, it still packs a hugely entertaining punch visually and aurally. Though, those with a delicate stomach might want to give it a wide berth thanks to Dick Straker’s live video projections which include a stomach-turning greasy spoon breakfast complete with live maggots and those offended by fowl language be warned there’s plenty of effing and blinding.

While cleverly adapted to suit modern sensibilities, the fundamentals remain the same: our hero Eddy, clad in a tomato red Adidas 3-stripe tracksuit leaves behind the ‘cess pit’ of the East End to avoid fulfilling the prophecy of a fortune teller who predicts his father will die a violent death and he’ll ‘bunk up with his mum’.

Johannes Schutz’s set design comprising an enormous, white rectangular revolve with two door openings, focusses all the attention firmly up front and centre stage. Alex Lowde’s comical costume designs add to the almost vaudevillian feeling of the piece.

The cast of four (three of whom, Allison Cook, Susan Bullock and Henry Waddington, double, triple and quadruple up on roles) keep the interest and entertainment up throughout. There are however a few issues with projection, even from just a few rows back it sounds underpowered. That said, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this it remains hugely entertaining throughout.

Young conductor Finnegan Downie Dear, keeps the orchestra on point and sustains the creeping menace in the music for the duration.

Subtle it isn’t, but it is a thoroughly engaging, bawdy and bold, small but perfectly formed 80 minute breath of fresh air on the opera landscape.

Images: Jane Hobson