Thursday, 23 February 2012

ENO 'Death of Klinghoffer' at the Coliseum.

10.00 am I was at the coliseum in London for the dress rehearsal of the controversial opera ' Death of Klinghoffer'. An odd time for opera, but perhaps the ENO thought it wise to stage it then to avoid the possibility of demonstrations against it; 10.00 am is far too early for demonstrators to do anything other than rail against the alarm clock. On its debut the opera attracted an amount of complaints due to it's subject matter. The opera centres on the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The hijackers killed one of the passengers, a retired, wheelchair-bound 69-year-old American Jew named Leon Klinghoffer. Goodman's script imagines what happened on the ship.

The English National Opera (ENO) is putting on seven performances of the opera at the London Coliseum over two weeks. It is being directed by Tom Morris, best known as the co-director of The National Theatre's smash-hit adaptation of War Horse and helming the controversial musical satire Jerry Springer: The Opera.
Originally opening in Brussels in 1991, the opera courted controversy even before a single note of John Adam's music was heard. Critics condemned the artistic merit of the play, questioning whether art should be made out of a tragic incident. 

From what I saw and heard this morning I can only assume that the piece relies on controversy rather than content. Sure it was good enough, save a weird disco-beat moment, but there was nothing there to captivate, no character to empathize with, no romance and no great songs. the best of it was to my mind the hard working chorus who had the biggest role... It was disappointing to note that, in the blurb handed out pre-show, the production team got name checks down to assistant hair and make-up and the women altering and dyeing the frocks whereas the chorus were left un-credited. Very odd indeed.

Alan Opie, playing Leon Klinghoffer holds a grenade during the dress rehearsal Photo By DYLAN MARTINEZ/REUTERS

The set relied heavily on projections with bits of deck and superstructure wheeled on and off during the production, Is that normal in opera?

The band was great, I sometimes felt that the singing detracted from my enjoyment of the music. The libretto was clunky and decidedly un-lyrical (something one can tolerate in work translated from German or Italian but disappointing in a work written in English), I am by no means an expert but as a poet I hankered after a bit of poetry. I was expecting gun shots so was not surprised by them apart from the moment when the harpists string broke with an unscripted bang.

All in all interesting to witness rather than a great joy or great art. More like a wacky modern history lesson with music. 

Have I said that I enjoyed the chorus?

This is what Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has to say about it in the Huffington Post:
In case you were wondering, Shmuley is the bloke who brought us 'Kosher Sex: A recipe for passion and intimacy'. People often ask me if I make stuff up, with material like this I don't have to.

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