Sad night for ENO as new opera gets thumbs down

Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph calls it a charmless disappointment.

Andrew Clements in the Guardian says the music doesn’t do enough to justify making the play into an opera.

Richard Morrison in the Times describes ‘unremitting old-fashioned atonality with an orchestral flourish’.

Richard Fairman in the Financial Times warns that ‘the audience must be prepared to surrender patiently to its fragmentary and elusive style’.

Not a good opening night for The Winter’s Tale by Ryan Wigglesworth, conducted by the composer.

photo: Johan Persson/ENO

The freesheets are a bit more positive. Barry Millington in the Standard reports ‘an immensely accomplished first opera by Wigglesworth’. Cara Chanteau writes in the Independent: ‘Successful, definitely – but perhaps just a tad too respectful.’

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  • I suggest you all go to see another new British opera being given superb performances at GSMD this week: The Tale of Januarie.

  • All too easy to take the odd comment out of context. On the whole this production received quite favourable notices (perhaps not raves) in the half dozen reviews I have already seen. It may not be a masterpiece (I reserve judgement until I see it next week) but on all accounts it is very well sung and staged. Hardly a thumbs down!

    • That’s the gist of it, Martin (if I may). Extremely well sung, played and conducted (by the composer, whose baton technique has certainly improved). The score has little harmonic or thematic variety and doesn’t seem to me to be that of a born opera composer, but then neither did Benjamin’s Written on Skin, which strikes me as wildly overrated (though interesting).

      Where most of us who rated the evening depart from Rupert is in rating Rory Kinnear’s production, a really clear piece of work IMO and that of Mark Valencia, whose four-star review is very worthy of consideration. Who knows, the show may even merit a revival.

    • What an odd, sweeping statement. What exactly is ‘modern’, in your opinion? Personally I’m happy we are still in a postmodern era, even if this score isn’t a specimen of that phenomenon.

      • If my teacher tells to be modern, and that to be modern is to disobey my teacher, what should I do?
        Jérôme Ducros, or as he’s known in modernist circles- ‘The new Hitler’.

  • ==avoiding some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful verse

    It’s like Thomas Ades who wrote an opera on The Tempest and missed out ‘Full Fathom Five….’.

    Quite irritating

    • Not exactly true. The Tempest libretto by Meredith Oakes is based on Shakespeare and does indeed include an aria for Ariel which begins ‘Five Fathoms Deep’ and continues. By basing a libretto on Shakespeare and following your line of thought the WHOLE play has been ‘missed out’.

  • By the way, ‘freesheet’ is an odd description for The Independent Online, which IMO is less worth reading than many of the other online sites (I admit a vested interest here with The Arts Desk). My beef is that the remaining Indy format expects (and gets) its classical/opera critics to write for nothing, which for a profit-making site that reproduces some of its articles in the for-sale i paper makes things even more difficult for the rest of us.

  • Dear Norman,

    I declare an interest, having worked on this production and benefitted from six weeks living with this engaging score and production. That being said, if one googles “The Winter’s Tale ENO review” one is presented with one two star review, one three star review, FIVE four star reviews and two un-starred but positive reviews.

    I accept that anyone may have their own response to this piece and production but I fail to understand how this result, alongside a very enthusiastic audience response, equates to “A Sad Night For ENO.”

    What does one have to do to get a “Happy Night”?

    Regards, with

    Rob Kearley

    • Dear Rob

      That’s a very good question and I don’t want in any way to diminish the audience response. However, a first-night audience is generally primed to be enthusiastic. We reported the colder response of the critics of the remaining paid-for newspapers.
      best
      Norman

  • The ENO is a ship that sails without a captain , the managerial side is atrocious [redacted: defamation], the artistic management team are just out of their depth , if this company is to survive the senior managers need to be dismissed a quickly as possible, thats all off them , wage thieves the whole bloody lot of them .

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