15 November 2013

The Invited (opera) at St Paul's Church, Covent Garden

I was incredibly lucky and very fortunate to get to see The Invited, a magnificent new opera.

The Invited came from Opera Room Productions, the team behind the work-in-progress opera All to Play For that I loved so much at the Riverside last year.

The review that I wrote then got me an offer of a free ticket for The Invited. The problems were I had other things booked for both performance nights and I wanted two tickets. I managed to solve them by rebooking a clashing theatre date (the Orange Tree were very helpful) and buying two tickets for The Invited. It was something that I wanted to see and I like to support the people behind the things that I like so buying tickets made more sense that accepting a free one.

The venue was a bit special too, it was St Paul's Church on Covent Garden. I got there in good time to secure a good set, i.e. one in the front row/pew. Being a church there was a wide aisle down the centre and I took a seat just to the left of that.

This was the view that I had of the stage and of the orchestra on the left.

The Invited told the story of two young sisters left alone in a secluded country house in Suffolk during the height of the First World War. The only other person that we met was a woman from the nearby village.

The younger sister, Violet, was out in a storm the night before the opera began and claimed that she had been with Zeus and that he and the other old gods would come back to collect her in another storm on the following night. The older sister, Emily, was worried about her and tried to convince her that it was not true but Violet is convinced that the old gods are needed to fix the world that has been broken by war.

The story developed slowly and carefully from there becoming more haunting, mysterious and tragic as it did so. It was a very fitting story for an opera and it reminded me of Turn of The Screw in terms of mood and pace. And that's a big compliment.

The three singers did very well, especially the two sisters who did most of the work. Emma Hall as the elder Emily had the richest voice (my view) and I was surprised that Sarah Minns as the younger Violet could sing at all given that she spent most of the evening in her skimpy nightwear in a cold church.

The music, by Richard Knight, was as evocative as the story and to my uneducated ear it had the feel of the early c20 English music by the likes of Walton and Williams.

The small band of musicians, all dressed in WWI uniforms, did the music justice.

The libretto by Norman Welch, from his own story, told the tale with little fuss and much imagination. There was clarity and poetry in the prose that made the story easy to follow despite its weirdness and lack of surtitles.

I loved everything about The Invited and I am sure that I would love it even more if it were to be performed in a concert venue.Talking to the creators afterwards that is a possibility. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

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