The first reviews are trickling in of last night’s premiere of Iain Bell’s new opera, directed by ENO boss Daniel Kramer and starring ENO veterans Susan Bullock, Lesley Garrett, Janis Kelly and Marie McLaughlin.
Rupert Christiansen gives it ** in the Telegraph:
I left the Coliseum shaking my head in rueful disbelief. Given a subject as jam-packed with drama, mystery and good old gore as the Ripper murders, how could composer Iain Bell and librettist Emma Jenkins come up with anything as soporifically slow and dreary as this?
Andrew Clements in the Guardian gives it a *** that reads like a **:
Bell’s score is expertly conducted by Martyn Brabbins; it is accomplished enough without being at all memorable. Most of it could have been composed at any time in the last 60 years – Britten’s Peter Grimes is the most obvious reference point – but there is never any sense of the music driving the drama, or of the theatrical effectiveness of the work being enhanced by either the setting of the text or the accompaniment. There is also far too much of it: at least 30 minutes’ music could painlessly be cut, and that might tighten the drama, too, and make the closing scene less ludicrously protracted.
Daniel Kramer’s production, with designs by Soutra Gilmore, is unremarkable, and occasionally rather clumsy, but there is, one suspects, little he could have done to make The Women of Whitechapel live more vividly on stage.
David Nice on theartsdesk.com calls it pointless.
Why the disgusting charred corpse on the mortuary trolley, I have no idea; it’s one of the false notes in Kramer’s production, which has some clumsy blocking and also depends on too much out-front singing, Les Mis style, and too much sitting above the orchestra pit, where Martyn Brabbins draws superb playing from the ENO Orchestra. Bell certainly knows how to produce beautiful chamber effects in the quiet passages; but in the big moments, he misses the grand-opera success of Britten and John Adams. Wrong approach – and still, for all the special pleading in the programme, wrong subject….
George Hall in The Stage calls it ‘a limited achievement’.
More to follow.