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Thebans at the ENO

Julian Anderson's first opera. A new commission from the ENO. Its music director at the helm. And an eagerly awaited production from Pierre Audi. There was much anticipation of this new opera in the musical world.

Roland Wood's portrayal of Oepidus was superb, and with much gravitas. Julia Sporsén as Antigone sang the part well and delivered drama throughout the three acts - and the powerful final note. Matthew Best was pretty good as the non-sexual Tiresias. The chorus deserved a prize for learning the difficult parts and delivered with much gusto.

Pierre Audi's production was powerful - especially in the first act when the dynamic movement of the different characters and the crowds really heightened the drama. Ed Gardner was superb in the pit - with clear directions (key to keep the choruses tidy) and enough breathing space for the drama to come through. The band was responsive and accurate (loved the contra-bassoon).

And how was the music? It felt right. At times it portrayed the drama / events, other times it faded into the background to support the vocal lines. It sounded new and fresh, yet not alien. Most important of all, it came across as a complete opera (as oppose to episodes of numbers or a glorified symphonic work).

All in all, it was an engrossing performance - one was drawn into the tragic-drama, the narrative, the textural music and superb stage direction. It's a bit like watching Strauss's Elektra - one feels exhausted at the end - in a good way.


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