Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Marnie, Muhly, ENO

Even in recent memory (I watched Hitchcock's film last month) I don't quite remember Marnie being so colour-saturated (the 1964 film is in Technicolor). The creative team that has helped stage Nico Muhly's new opera for ENO have managed to touch base with everything in the Pantone catalogue. The set & costume design, lit on a stage that accommodates more excellent projection work from 59 Productions, is a synaesthete's paradise. It is rather glorious.

It's design that is of a part with the music too. The orchestration is consistent and moves through just as many colours as the harmonic overlays and clusters. It's a score that deserves the over-used term kaleidoscopic.

This multiple facet reflects a key element of the subject matter of the opera. Marnie is represented onstage not only as a solo mezzo-soprano but also with a quartet of semi-alter egos and with a penumbrating ensemble of grey-suited demons in perpetual motion. Marnie herself is sung by Sasha Cooke, who sings superbly and behaves in the opaque manner of her character. The bulk of the rest of the singing is undertaken by the characters of Mark & Terry Rutland, Daniel Okulitch & Jamie Laing both finessing their 'meadow' & 'lies' set piece arias respectively; as their mother, Lesley Garrett commanded the most ready audience reaction (not least through noteworthily crisp English enunciation). The supporting parts have decisive contributions too: Diana Montague's Lucy and Alasdair Elliott's Mr Strutt are noteworthy. The chorus & orchestra are consistently fine.

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