music by Tansy Davies libretto by Nick Drake.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 25 April 2015.
7.30pm 13, 15, 17, 21, 23, 25 Apr.
3pm 19 Apr.
Post-show Discussion: 13 Apr.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7638 8891.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 11 April.
Opera giving voice to individuals in one of modern history’s horror moments.
Suddenly, one bright day, the clouds go black. And become a metaphor for clouds, being oily smoke. Just an ordinary day till then, in a stratified society where a godlike figure sits alone atop a glass floor, which is the glass ceiling of the mid-level. That’s where people work, an office-block so tall a newcomer goes dizzy as his eyes zoom to the ground. Beneath is the non-glass level where people sit in ordered rows, though there’s the mess of life – rows between lovers, anger of mother at child, all interrupted by the daily schedule, the demands of getting to work.
It’s a tower of Babel – except people understand each other. Or the anon-city of King Vidor’s silent film The Crowd. Except, today the crowd becomes historic. Coincidence identifies it on the American calendar with emergency call-out number 9/11.
English National Opera move to the Barbican Theatre to find the appropriate scale for Tansy Davies’ music, which incorporates its modern style unselfconsciously, making it equal partner with the action. Neither aggressively obtrusive nor an anodyne accompaniment, it is a flexible means of communication through all voices – counter-tenor included – creating individual character and emotion among the sweep of events.
These are expressed through seismic moments in Tal Yarden’s video, behind Michael Levine’s glass-office set: sudden clouds blot-out the sky, repeated falling structures, a telegram-montage of the final messages desperate characters try making on a suddenly-blocked cell network.
Falling recurs in Nick Drake’s libretto, at one point graphically echoed in Davies’ music. He contrasts it with the executive who insists on climbing to the roof for rescue. Incongruously, he pulls rank when the Janitor sensibly contradicts him.
Deborah Warner’s production gives such moments a clear focus amid sections of grander theatrical effect – not people, but their messages float down from the heights. And the quiet conclusion is less notable for the candle-lit Requiem than for the specific grief of Susan Bullock as a bereaved mother.
Between Worlds deserved its applause, though such celebration of artistry seemed incongruous for such a subject. Which is, perhaps, the best tribute to its skill and integrity.
Shaman: Andrew Watts.
Janitor: Eric Greene.
Younger Woman: Rhian Lois.
Realtor: Clare Presland.
Younger Man: William Morgan.
Older Man: Phillip Rhodes.
Mother: Susan Bickley.
Lover: Sarah Champion.
Babysitter: Claire Egan.
Wife: Susan Young.
Security Guard: Ronald Samm.
Firefighter 1: Philip Sheffield.
Firefighter 2: Niamh Kelly.
Child: Edward Green.
Conductor: Gerry Cornelius.
Director: Deborah Warner.
Designer: Michael Levine.
Lighting: Jean Kalman.
Video: Tal Yarden.
Chorus Master: Stephen Higgins.
Choreographer: Kim Brandstrup.
Costume: Brigitte Reiffenstuel.
Assistant conductor: Fergus Macleod.
Assistant chorus master: Chad Kelly.