Novelist Louise Welsh and composer Stuart MacRae continue the creative partnership that started in 2009 with the 15 minute Remembrance Day, with new work The Devil Inside. Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1891 short story The Bottle Imp, there’s much to applaud in delivering a brand new opera but musically it falls short in pleasing the ear.
The imp grants the bottle’s owner everything their heart desires, but, as with all good horror stories, there’s a catch – if the owner dies in possession of the bottle, their soul is eternally damned. The only way to get rid of the bottle is to sell it for less than you paid.
The 100-minute piece scored for 14 instruments and a cast of four is set in the present day and played out on a minimalistic, monochrome set. The only real splash of colour coming from the eerie effectively realised bottle itself.
The four performers are without fault and manage admirably with the complicated score. The biggest issue with the work is the predominantly atonal score, whilst modern and original, grates uncomfortably when sustained over the entire length of the opera. There are four fine voices onstage and one can’t help feel that they haven’t been served well here, and the insufficient variety in the score leaves one wishing for something to break the monotony.
One must applaud new, original work, especially in opera, and the direction, set, performers and the virtuosity of the orchestra and conductor are exceptional, but musically this audience member wants a little more music that one can remember after the curtain has fallen.
Image: Bill Cooper