A forgotten hit and a world premiere

Tuesday 1 December 2009

How to produce – and sell – Shakespeare and Sheridan in opera? Will fans of Shakespeare and Sheridan come to operas setting their text? This is what we are pondering, in the odd moments when there are no pressing tasks.

At the beginning of January (the day when I get back from leave, actually), we start a weeklong workshop at Dartington on Alexander Goehr’s new opera Promised End, a setting of King Lear. I am trying to think of how to structure it now. Of course I am not even finished with the casting, and I am trying to balance the nagging ‘just get it done’ in my head with the sense that if I get it wrong I may scupper the piece’s chances! We have Roderick (Mike) Earle and Nigel Robson, two very strong artists, as Lear and Gloucester: I need to tell them asap what sections we are likely to work on in this week. It’s exciting, and as usual I am anxious.

I am further behind with Sheridan’s one opera, and probably his most popular show in his lifetime – The Duenna. I’d really like it to open in the jewel of Georgian theatres, the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds. Of course it’s not much like many of the theatres to which the show will then tour. The main issue now is finding good singers who can speak Sheridan’s wonderful prose.

It’s utterly unlike any other ETO project to date, and the shows will have nothing in common – except the same designers. Even the players will have to be different.

In lighter moments I think ahead to more Mozart and Puccini, and dream casts.

Read in the FT review of ENO’s Messiah that there are lots of Handel oratorio performances, and hardly any Handel operas in performance. Huh? I wish the FT had covered our Handelfest. For once we were doing something of international significance, which would have run well in the FT. Makes one long for German newspapers, with their extended, serious cultural sections; mind you, I am sure the journalists do, too.

Update Have a look at this letter about ETO’s (and others’) operatic contribution to Handel’s anniversary year.

Saw The White Band: really excellent! What a terrific film maker Hanecke is! I was praising him to a friend at lunch yesterday, and he reminded me of the pretty bad Don Giovanni did for the Bastille Opera a couple of years ago. Some of it was interesting and daring, and much of it was incompetent – I guess there is no reason to think that a good film-maker will direct opera well. Would you ask one to direct ballet, or other dance theatre?

Still, The White Band was a high point of this year, alongside the wonderful Lulu of Christof Loy at the ROH. I woke from a terrible dream of death last night, and both were in my mind then for a long time.

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