Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

Couple of things TLS -related

The TLS like my Potter review so much that they have rejigged this week's fiction pages to run it rather than running it next week. I am flattered by this, and smug.

I shall post it here the moment it is on the news-stands.


A review that should have been in last week, but wasn't was
There are some stories which, once heard and watched on an operatic stage, seem made for that mode of telling above all others. Errollyn Wallen and April de Angelis's 'The Silent Twins' an adaptation of Marjorie Wallace's book, and of the tragic aftermath of that tale of twins trapped in a private language and a relationship too combative to be entirely loving. is one of those stories. As produced at the Almeida, with a small cast, simple set and tiny orchestra, it is an intense experience that moves into comic invention and sensuous beauty without ever losing the neurotic intensity of the story's passionate doomed sadness.

The fierce quiet voices of Alison Crookendale and Talis Trevigne intertwine their way into the delicate whispers of a shared inner life that both June and Jennifer know is a trap from which one at least of them needs to escape.'Help us/Help us/ One of us will kill one of us/God Help Us/Somebody' they sing at the end of the first act in one of several moving duets. Like the actual Gibbon twins, they often confront the world with fast eldritch chanting too fast for the ear to decipher - Wallen's score is at its most inventive here.

The twins are jailed for arson and the Broadmoor authorities separate them; in adjacent rooms they sing the most moving of theirduets, a broken-backed little waltz song that emerges from, and returns into, cells of birdsong-like material. When, at the end of the opera, June is left alone, her voice winds down into final silence. One of the strengths of Wallen's score, though, is that the twin's gentle twittering music is set against the harsh Britten-like ostinatos of judges and prison officers and the almost smothering operatic lushness of the music written for the twins' mother Gloria - a powerful performance by La Verne Williams.

The second act is the more concentrated and lyrical; the first act covers more territory both factually and stylistically as it flashes back and forwards through the twin's early lives. We see them experiment with novel-writing and the music embodies their sleazy fantasies of seduction and disco-dancing; we see them play at vamping two local youths and the to-and-fro of the writing and music deliberately keeps unclear exactly who is exploiting whom. De Angelis' libretto does an effective job of turning Wallace's psychological journalism into a coherent short dramatic form.

Wallen's dictum that 'we don't break down barriers in music...we don't see any' is borne out here in the way that the austere lyricism that is her music's emotional centre can be so at home with moves into creditable imitations of cocktail jazz and raucous pop..Her broad church modernist idiom is not startlingly radical, but is supple enough effectively to underline De Angelis' often indirect points about the extent to which the pathologizing of the twins as mad and criminal Others drew on their gender and ethnicity. 'The Silent Twins' is an intense, moody piece of music theatre that deserves further hearings.

It was just one of those things - their regular opera reviewer Andrew Porter, doyen of the field, turned in a piece about everything in the Almeida Opera festival and a couple of other premieres, and included a less favourable review of the Wallen. I think he is wrong - the Guardian agrees with me. Of such things are the fortunes of musicians made or lost.

Never forget, at least one Tchaikovsky opera, The Enchantress had the reputation of being one of his poorer works until a decade or so ago when it got revived. It turned out that the soprano had a cold on opening night and got iller and iller during the short run - a few resulting bad reviewes meant no-one heard it for a century.

Writers should keep perspective on their problems.

Annoyingly, I think I have a migraine coming, which means I probably don't get to hear Barb Jungr's Dylan set this evening. Good job I didn't book.
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