Henrietta Bredin

An operatic treat

An operatic treat
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Opera is a good word. It means work. And if you want to experience a work that is the absolute and utter works, a shattering combination of music and drama and visual imagination, get yourself along to the London Coliseum right now and book seats for Lucia di Lammermoor. It's a triumphant return to form for English National Opera, with a cast of singing actors performing to the absolute hilt of their pretty spectacular abilities. And that includes Clive Bayley, who was so unwell that he couldn't carry on singing beyond the first scene, but continued to give an impassioned performance on stage while Paul Whelan sang for him from the wings. The atmosphere is one of stifled Victorian repression resulting in obsession, infantilism and insanity. The heroine is looked after by a woman who clearly not only bound her charge's breasts and dressed her in doll's clothes to keep her in the nursery for as long as possible but no doubt also introduced her to the cloying, ectoplasmic nastiness of the spirit world as well. Lucia's final collapse into full-on, blood-boltered insanity, accompanied by the fabulously weird sound of a glass harmonica, is ironically the only time she's really free of the sexual, emotional and physical brutality with which she is tyrannized by her brother, her lover and her pastor. This is English National Opera so I don't know why the title wasn't translated as The Bride of Lammermoor but the translation was so well delivered by the singers that it made a complete mockery of the idiot board of surtitles suspended over their heads. Fabulous stuff. Go now.