Sunday, 28 July 2013

At the heart of the jewel

There is no doubting that we have had a wonderful week at Opera Holland Park. Three fantastic shows - one of them a world premiere - gems have been unearthed, stars have been born, the weather has held (until last night, but even then it seemed appropriately tempestuous) and a round of reviews that we would be shy to write ourselves have been emblazoned across the media. It could have been so different. It can always be so different.

But that is the gamble we take and believe me, whilst it might not seem like much of a flutter now as the plaudits flood in, making a decision to produce something like I gioielli della Madonna certainly feels like one at the time. So much can go wrong and it is credit, of course, to James that it has been so brilliantly produced. Think of all the elements that go into creating any opera, let alone one this big and unknown, and you will realise that even the smallest decisions can have a profound effect on the outcome. 

What is pleasing of course, is that the vast majority of critics and public have found the work to be of great substance. Not all though; one or two colleagues I have discussed it with have actually declared it variously "weird", "mental" and "shit" but all, to a man and woman, have been completely engrossed in it. Indeed, a bit of me thinks that Rupert Christiansen's Telegraph review, in which he declared that he thinks the music "dreadful" but nevertheless gave the show an unmitigated rave, is our greatest achievement! About the music he is as wrong as it is possible to be as far as I am concerned but I admire his submission to the visceral impact of the show, and for having the honesty to write so well of it.

The reactions of the audience are, as ever, the most rewarding; these are people who take the opportunity to hear something new, perhaps against their instinct, and come away richly rewarded.  At OHP we have had a long list of such events over the past 17 years but it never fails to please. Yes, we have faith in the rarer operas we present, yes we believe in and understand their potential effect once on stage. But we would be stupid to assume their magic can work unaided because it matters deeply how they are constructed, put together and peopled. They don't produce themselves and I Gioielli has been the toughest of them all.  It really has taken blood, sweat and tears and our applause for those at the heart of the endeavour should be as mighty as the Act 1 closing chorus.