Pathos and camaraderie

opera northÂ

Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 11:21 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th December 2018, 11:25 am

One of the few positives to come out of the First World War was the Christmas truce of 1914 when ordinary soldiers on both sides laid down their arms and met in No Man's Land to sing hymns, exchange food and even play football.

It did not last, of course, but deserves to be commemorated as the centenary of the end of that conflict draws to a close.

This opera was first performed in America in 2011 but is given its first British performance here in Yorkshire by Opera North.

It is a semi-staged production but nevertheless manages to capture some of the real pathos, and also the camaraderie and even humour of the time.

Composer Kevin Puts and librettist Mark Campbell have made a fairly simple folk-tale out of it, with the ordinary soldiers - German, French and Scots - as the good guys and their leaders - both military and political - as the people responsible for their suffering.

This enables the pair to take a fairly stereotypical approach to the score, with bagpipes for the Scots and plenty of cod-Wagner for the Germans. It works well enough at that level and even won a Pulitzer prize in the States, although it is effectively musical storytelling rather than great art.

Tim Albery's production makes good use of the space, in which the orchestra, under Nicholas Kok, take centre stage. Hannah Clark's costumes and minimal set summon up the front line effectively and Opera North's male chorus is used to good effect as the cannon-fodder soldiers at the heart of the story.

 

        Philip Andrews