S&H Operas Review

Ned ROREM Fables;Bertha;Three Sisters New World Opera Company Bridewell Theatre, London 23 February 2001

Ned Rorem's is a strange case. Now 78, he declared himself a neglected and disappointed man in a Gramophone interview (May 2000), feeling sidelined and 'a little left out'. This will not be reversed by the unwise decision to mount his three chamber operas in London.

The first was a party game played by a group of bored young evening-dressed sophisticates who dressed up as animals to enact tales by La Fontaine. The company had realised that the wordy text was incomprehensible, so they had added it as a programme insert; I arrived too late to study it and caught many isolated words, a few phrases and often failed to catch the point. Bertha was a deranged Queen in a Shakespeare history play take-off, dressed like Boudicca with a zimmer frame & a Margaret Thatcher handbag. Neither was enlivened by its music, which seemed to have been provided from duty rather than any inner need. It was dull, and dully played, usually too loud, by Anthony Davie. I did not stay for the Gertrude Stein piece, and Andrew Clements in The Guardian, "How anyone could make a convincing staging from this ramshackle collection is beyond me", reassures me that this was not a serious dereliction of duty. The cast of young singers did what they could against the odds. It was clear from reviews posted up at the theatre that the alternate show in the New World Opera Company's season is far the better, and it is the sort of initiative which Seen&Heard is anxious to support.

I have to say that time and money would better be spent upon 32 settings of Tennyson, Yeats, Whitman, Frost and others recorded by Susan Graham with Martin Martineau, which leave a far happier impression of this American composer Erato 8573-80222-2 .

Peter Grahame Woolf

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