Barbara Hannigan responds to cool Covent Garden reviewsmain
The soprano has asked us to feature her response to our summary of below-tepid reviews of George Benjamin’s Lessons in Love and Violence:
Dear Norman, I cannot understand how or why you have in good conscience used a title like this for your post on George Benjamin’s new opera. Were you there on opening night? I was there! After being a part of over 80 world premieres, I can tell you, the audience reception was the opposite of cool. It had a delicious temperature! And regarding your press selections, the opera has garnered mostly 4 star reviews save for a few. The New York Times review from Anthony Tommassini was extraordinary! Of course I am personally biased, as I have been a part of this piece and other works of George Benjamin for many years, but it is not my personal feeling about this piece which prompts me to write this note to your website. It is that you have put a negative spin, unfairly, on a piece which deservedly received positive attention from most of the press and from the audience. And, in the bigger picture, you have put a negative light onto something which should be celebrated, no matter what. Composers need to be supported. Their work is courageous and they are isolated for years of their lives, writing MUSIC. Composers are rarely understood or celebrated. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they are less successful but they have, as another composer I admire very much has said, “put their DNA on a slide, under a microscope” and have dared to allow it to be seen, heard, and judged. They are not remaining anonymous, like much of the cowardly commentary we see on internet sites. The night after opening, for you to write a title like this to a post…well, I find it an unnecessarily negative. More love please, less violence.
photo Stephen Cummiskey/ROH
Thank you for your response. I chose not to attend George Benjamin’s new opera since I emerged wholly alienated from Written on Skin and would not have approached this work in my usual spirit of hopeful expectation. Several critics – notably Rupert Christiansen in the Telegraph yesterday and Richard Morrison in the Times this morning – appear to have been alienated in much the same way by the new opera.
You are right to point out that the first-night audience received it with enthusiasm. It may well be that there is a definite appetite for opera that avoids emotional engagement. Who knows? Time alone will tell. best wishes, Norman