Michael Tanner

Two out of three

Glyndebourne on Tour has discovered outreach and access, etc. In an attempt, which I desperately hope will be vain, to ingratiate themselves with young audiences, they have conceded, in their mendacious publicity, that ‘traditional’ opera is a matter of fat ladies singing, drawn-out death sequences and the rest of the anti-elitist claptrap, and state that ‘dispelling the myth of these stereotypes has long been a priority for Glyndebourne’. So how do you dispel the myth? Commission an opera which deals with contemporary life, involving back-packers, terrorists, drug-dealing and people-trafficking, and set it to music which could easily be mistaken (by elitists) as an unwelcome resurgence of minimalism, advertise it with sexy posters and hope for the best. What I saw in Norwich was, if not the worst, as close to it as I care to venture. And the audience consisted mainly, and as always, of elderly couples. I noticed a small school party, sitting just in front, whose members seemed to be enjoying themselves far less than a similar group had the previous evening at Figaro, about which I raved last week.

Tangier Tattoo has a text by Stephen Plaice and music by John Lunn. Actually, large chunks of the text are spoken, with amplified musical accompaniment — the voices are amplified, too, since the performers need all the help they can get on that front. They have been chosen to look as convincing as possible, and they do. As you might expect, undressing starts early on and continues intermittently, so they need to look good in their boxers. There is lots of plot, in fact the whole thing is plot, with very little in the way of characterisation — a long self-revealing solo would suggest something as appalling as an aria, so must clearly be avoided.

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