My visit to Covent Garden to see WNO’s production of Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron was dense with interest. Even reading my ticket was fascinating: “Moses und Aron ... supported by the Welsh Government”. I felt a surge of admiration for this sophisticated act of public subsidy – I wonder when I’ll see the Scottish Government’s name on an opera ticket?
Once inside, it was the 80-strong WNO Chorus who took my breath away. How is it possible to sing at this level of tonal complexity for nearly two hours, with such confidence and energy? What were the first rehearsals like? I’m fond of reminding students that Schoenberg was a committed choral composer, thoroughly versed in the German version of its traditions. But in no way did he consider choral music as a conservative area of art ; which is alas what it has largely become today, despite the rapid advance in choral performance and technique available to contemporary composers.
During his lifetime, Schoenberg bravely pronounced that in the future his music would be properly appreciated; history would vindicate him. (Unfortunately, I don’t think that has widely happened – his work is now taught much less than it used to be in university classes, for instance). But surely even he would have been surprised by WNO’s musical achievement in this inspiring production, the first in the UK for 50 years.