The London Coliseum


Having in the last two years so much enjoyed the short-and-snappy interval-free concerts typical of the Covid era, I found myself unusually excited to be going to hear something really long: five hours of The Valkyrie at English National Opera. Pondering those lengthy upcoming intervals at home, I seized the bread knife, Nothung-like, and fashioned myself a sturdy set of cheese sandwiches. Arriving at the Coliseum for the first time in quite a long time, I ascended to the upper circle, my favourite place in the house, where the sound is so good and the view perfectly ok.


Despite all the world's present problems, and the masks we needed to wear (and willingly did so) this evening was like stepping back into a wonderful old era of ENO's history. Seated near to me were some old-timers giving the production's crazier moments their quizzical but sympathetic attention; and also a group of students whose experience of opera was not yet very extensive, though they remained engaged throughout. But thank goodness, no world-travelling 'Niebelung Hunters' who have so irritated me in the past with their ostentatious comparisons of the Ring Cycles they've flown round the globe to see.


Just for the record, and trying not to make ostentatious comparisons myself, I loved this production, despite the Magic Fire going missing onstage at the end, vetoed by Westminster Council on health and safety grounds. The singing, by an almost all-British cast, was top-notch, and the orchestra made a fabulous sound under Martyn Brabbins, whose nifty, flowing tempi made it seem that the evening was flying past effortlessly. Richard Jones' production had an innocent simplicity, with some batty moments (a solo Riverdancer holding the stage during the Ride of the Valkyries, surrounded by shy pantomime Valkyrie horses) fitting convincingly into the narrative. Walküre isn't usually my favourite night out (far too many long, serious heart-to-hearts from Wotan) but I'm now greatly looking forward to the following Ring instalments - which won't be staged anytime soon. It was wonderful to see this much-loved company once again doing what it famously does. Even the Coliseum, with its mad Roman Empire décor, was looking adorable.




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JUDITH WEIR

Composer