Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links

Selected Review


Opera

English National Opera
Nico Muhly - Marnie

ENO Marnie dancers Marnie Cast (c) Richard Hubert Smith

When mentioning the name Marnie one instantly thinks of Alfred Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery, not too many people know that the novel written in 1961 by Winston Graham depicts a society in flux. The film is so strong and thought provoking that to think of an opera on the same subject would seem not only impossible but sheer madness. Well, how nice to be proved wrong! This is a work which stands on its own feet, and the music writing and the production are so good that one immediately forgets the film and concentrates solely on its main subject, Marnie.

The production by Michael Mayer is perfect, it does not refer at all to the film, it creates its own strong images. To have four extra Marnies on stage was a brilliant creation, and it gave the impression of multifaceted uncertainty, who is this Marnie really, which one is Marnie?

The staging is simply sensational, traditional but also modern, it is a nostalgic look back into 1959, with references to a male dominated society where a woman stands little chance of success unless she is ruthless, and this is what comes out so clearly in this work. Marnie is a complex character, she is a thief with a mission, through her thieving and risk taking she cleanses herself, and eventually at the end gives herself the opportunity to become a person, but be sure, she will never be a mediocre run of the mill woman, she will always be outstanding.

Nico Muhly's music is clearly also multifaceted, its influences are many and all recognisable, but they are influences not the main subject. His musical language is approachable, attractive and modern, not particularly challenging to the ear, but does modern music have to be? This is a fascinating partnership of stage and music, and if there is a small criticism is the vocal writing which seems to lie in the middle of the voices, never comprising a full two octaves. It is not a big problem, and perhaps on a second hearing one would understand why this is so? Be that is it may, the vocal writing gives a claustrophobic sense, of people who are boxed in in a society which is not right but it is self righteous.

In this operatic mountain one needs singing and acting which have to be first class, and this was the case. From an attractive, but astonishingly also non memorable Marnie presented and sang to perfection by Sasha Cooke, she could just as well be transparent at times as nobody noticed her; to the James Stewart look alike Rutland of Daniel Okulitch, a lanky, serious, thoughtful character who is also trapped. And what a bright idea to have Rutland's brother, Terry sang by a countertenor. James Laing was the perfect characterisation. And remember these are all people with failures, but Terry has more than one face in this work and this is discovered at the end when he helps Marnie and he is, perhaps, the only one who understands her. One cameo stood up very well, Lesley Garrett is always a strong actress and her mere presence gave Mrs Rutland weight. Garrett was all the things one would expect from a rich woman in the late 1950's, strong, coquettish, dominant and decided. In fact the opposite of Marnie. Alasdair Elliott was the furious and vengeful Mr Strutt and Eleanor Dennis and Matthew Durkan the ambitious Mrs and Mr Fleet. On November 26, Martyn Brabbins gave his customary care and musical wisdom to make Muhly's score shine and surprise at every turn. With such a strong show, one left the theatre asking why is it that the Arts Council keep bashing this company?

Eduardo Benarroch

Photo courtesy and © Richard Hubert Smith

Return to top of page



Home
|
Current Issue
|
Diary
|
Subscribe
|
Book Orders
Rising Stars
|
Selected Reviews
|
Stop Press
|
Contact & Advertising
|
Links