- October 11, 2021
A new production at Glyndebourne is always an exciting proposition, always something to look forward to and so it was for this return to some sense of post pandemic normality. There was a tangible buzz in the auditorium as we saw for the first time the metal mesh, gasometer like structure that dominated the stage, and at times dominated the whole production. And we were equally surprised. By the addition of a narrator, in English, who opened the whole performance and was eventually unceremoniously carted off the stage only to appear later as a prisoner. Did it work? Not for me, it felt both unnecessary and, dare I say it, patronising.
Director Frederic Wake-Walker’s vision is concept heavy, some of it works beautifully, some less so. The metal mesh prison is monumentally striking and oppressive but at times is felt like it was masking both the characters and the voices. The involvement of live video projections was stunning visually, if occasionally rather dizzying, I felt for those in the front rows coping with the rapid movement of multiple images, but it did make a clear point that in our age of constant surveillance no one is safe. That metal mesh also made moments of the story rather diffficult to follow as the cast were pretty uniformly dressed in military style black.
All this said those principals were in fine voice in particular Dorothea Herbert as Leonore and Dingle Yandell’s Don Pizarro and Adam Smith’s Florestan was particularly impressive from that very first haunting note.
Ben Glassberg drives the Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra forward with appropriate energy and delicacy too and the Glyndebourne chorus are as ever on top form as the prisoners although they look grimly more like mental asylum patients perhaps with the emphasis on asylum. The final scene is finally filled with light, light and a lot of gold foil wrapped around the cast like Roman costume and draped from the cage to create a colossal colosseum, with just a touch of the finishing scenes of a marathon.
What I liked I loved, but the whole felt a little concept heavy.