The Independent London Newspaper

Classical and Jazz: Preview - Fourth Grimeborn Festival of opera and music at the Arcola Theatre

Catherine Hopper

Published: 12 August, 2010
by SEBASTIAN TAYLOR

MURDER, incest, rape, love and fidelity – it’s all in the fourth Grimeborn Festival of opera and music that’s now in full swing at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, providing an inner-city urban alternative to the Glyndebourne Opera in leafy Sussex.

Not just that, either. Grimeborn provides a feast of new and experimental works together with rarely performed pieces by established composers, compared with Glyndebourne’s heavy weighting of easy-listening classical operas for stuffed shirts in DJs.

“Our main objective is to put opera into the heart of Hackney where it can be enjoyed by people from the local and neighbouring communities,” says Andrew Steggall, the festival’s curator.

“It seems to work. Over the years, we’ve been getting good audiences.

“Our other objective is to provide a ‘bottom rung’ for composers, librettists, directors, actors and singers seeking to establish themselves.”

This Friday and Saturday see the performance of Benjamin Britten’s chamber opera Rape of Lucretia, written for Kathleen Ferrier just after the war.

Hampstead soprano Catherine Hopper is singing Lucretia just weeks after her acclaimed Wigmore Hall performance at the Helen Bamber Foundation fundraiser.

Wednesday will see  the first complete performance of Vice.

This is a new jazz opera loosely based on the The Revenger’s Tragedy by Thomas Middleton, the sardonic 17th-century tale of murder, incest and corruption.

Composed by noted pianist Jools Scott to a  libretto by Sue Curtis, the piece is scored for piano, double bass, drums, accordian, small brass section and choir.

Lastly, next Friday and Saturday (August 20 and 21), there’s an intriguing double-bill inspired by the French poet and film-maker Jean Cocteau.

The first work will be a new opera, Cocteau in the Underworld, by Ed Hughes, centred on an imagined incident in the Frenchman’s life.

The second will be the UK premiere of Les Enfants Terrible, by American repetitive music composer Philip Glass.

In Glass’s hands, the Cocteau tragedy is turned into a dance/opera where singers and dancers share centre stage.

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