Michael Tanner

Colour and energy

Love and Other Demons<br /> <em>Glyndebourne</em>

Love and Other Demons

I only caught up with Glyndebourne’s newly commissioned opera at its penultimate performance. It was a courageous thing to put on a work by a composer as little known in this country as Peter Eötvös, and was rewarded at the seventh performance with a respectably full house. It isn’t a difficult opera to follow or grasp, and though I was not especially impressed by it, in fact find it a weak piece, I have nothing but admiration for the élan with which it was presented, with the conductor Vladimir Jurowski giving a very strong lead.

The long programme note by Edward Kemp helps to explain what the central pre-occupation of the work is supposed to be, though that is already indicated by the title. The only trouble is that it might be, if not the name, then the subtitle of most operas in and out of the repertoire. As Kemp indicates, we tend to regard our own ‘demons’ as passions, while other people’s get awarded less flattering names, such as ‘obsession’ or ‘neurosis’. But the collection of demons in Gabriel García Márquez’s novella from which this piece is adapted is an odd one: love as passion is present at the core of the work, but we also have, near the start, a dog biting the heroine Sierva during a solar eclipse, and her resultant state is taken to be anything from an infection to possession with devils, which means that she has numerous unfortunate contacts with Mother Church. There is a madwoman who certainly needs to be made to keep quiet, if not to be exorcised. The list becomes heterogeneous enough to make one wonder whether there is a subject there at all. And if one turns to the characters to provide the indispensable interest, they are not people who command any particular sympathy or, on the whole, antipathy.

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