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ENO’s Marnie first review: Sorry, it’s not a classic

November 19, 2017 by norman lebrecht

5 comments.


Here are the reviews, in order of their arrival online:

Theartsdesk.com haa the first review, by Bernard Hughes, of last night’s English National Opera world premiere of Nico Muly’s new work.

The headline is ‘Marnie, English National Opera review – hyped new opera doesn’t hit the heights’.

The closing line is: ‘So while there were many good things to enjoy, the whole thing did not offer as engaging a theatrical experience as Benjamin’s Written on Skin, for me the benchmark for 21st century opera. This was an enjoyable evening, but not the hoped-for modern classic.’

Read the full review here.

More to follow as they come online.

George Hall in The Stage disagrees: ‘…Much of this is down to a score that shows a significant development in Muhly’s art, both in terms of technical skill and expressive power; he handles his forces with increased command as well as discretion, revealing the interiors of his complex characters. The result is an outstanding achievement.’

Other opinions?

Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph endorses the first verdict: ‘…’ anyone who remembers how brilliantly Hitchcock moulded and coloured Graham’s tale of a compulsively lying kleptomaniac suffering from a childhood trauma into a subtly woven narrative will be bitterly disappointed at what replaces it: something without a dramatic focus that loses rather than gathers steam and never rises above the anodyne and obvious.’

The Telegraph headline: ‘If you’ve seen Hitchcock’s Marnie then this ENO adaptation will only disappoint you’

Broadway World: ‘This is a production that is beautiful to look at, but disappointingly, it lacks the necessary engagement and thrill to make it a classic.’

Zachary Woolfe, New York Times: ‘If Marnie never comes theatrically to life like those two very different women (Emilia Marty and Melisande), it may be because Debussy and Janacek’s works are true music dramas, in which the characters develop and the plots advance through the music, not parallel to it. “Marnie,” with a libretto by the dramatist Nicholas Wright, too often feels like a play with noirish underscoring. The music isn’t unrelated to what’s happening on stage, but it feels supplementary rather than integral — decoration and mood setting rather than buttress.’

Tim Ashley in the Guardian: ‘…there is a major flaw, which is primarily one of tone. Muhly’s approach is essentially reflective and there’s too little menace and tension throughout. The crucial figure of Marnie’s abusive mother strikes me as under-characterised. This psychological thriller doesn’t always thrill as it should.’

Richard Morrison in the Times: ‘Does the world need another opera in which an entirely male creative team attempt to dissect the mind of an “unhinged” woman? There are thousands already, a handful even psychologically perceptive — but the long, dreary new example premiered by English National Opera isn’t one of them.’


Comments (5)

  1. Norman says:

    Put The Stage Review up.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Haven’t seen it yet.

      1. Saxon Broken says:

        How would you feel about adding the review once it is out? Nevertheless, whatever you decide, you have done a great job of putting these reviews together.

  2. D says:

    Telegraph review is hilarious: no, it wasn’t Puccini, you fool.

  3. John Mathers says:

    The comment about Marnie being disappointing if you have seen the film: frankly, I think it is the film which disappoints afer seeing the opera. I loved it.


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