Far more important than beautiful music: I n , the premiere of The Minotaur at the Royal Opera House offered audiences a blow to the solar plexus from a velvet-clad fist. Our affections are aroused equally by the rich characterisation with which this work is imbued. Photo by Bill Cooper — more photos available here Share this: But that’s not enough to rescue a poorly thought out Richard Jones production. Circles within circles in the design reflect the ideas of ritual and repetition that have informed so much of Birtwistle’s work over the years. Theseus hesitates momentarily when the Minotaur acquires the power of human speech, but then delivers the fatal blow. The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age.

He remains determined, revealing that — like the Minotaur — he may be the son of Poseidon. Johan Reuter is the single-minded Theseus. For their opera The Minotaur — first performed in and now revived at the Royal Opera House — the composer Harrison Birtwistle and the poet David Harsent have been inspired by Greek tragedy. Stephen Langridge ‘s production is stylish, playing out in the wan sunlight and oppressive darkness of Alison Chitty ‘s set. In two symmetrical scenes, one in each half of the opera, he has visions of Ariadne, of his double, and of a shadowy figure it is Theseus who poses a threat to him, though he cannot understand what this is. More importantly, the clear images of the performers are preferable to the sometimes distant shots of singers involved with some opera videos.

Stephen Langridge’s setting is minimalist, artistic and effective. But even here we do not quite feel repulsed.

Birtwistle (The) Minotaur

I nthe premiere of The Minotaur at the Royal Opera House offered audiences a blow to the solar plexus from a velvet-clad fist. Does the score sound less transparent than before? Christine Rice; Snake Priestess: In a similar way, the clarity of the sound helps to bring out the distinctions of timbre that Birtwistle used in his score.

Britten’s Billy Budd takes the breath away. At the start of the opera Ariadne, daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, greets the Innocents as they arrive from Athens. Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner.

The curtain rises to reveal John Tomlinsonbare-chested and with a realistic looking bull-head helmet affixed, standing prostrate and prone in the middle of what appears to be a bull ring surrounded just above by degrees of chorus and by the impassive and captivating presence of Ariadne as moderator.


The drama is now both wonderful and dreadful; as more victims are raped and gored, blood upon blood, the crowd intones a drugged and ecstatic chorale brutally shattered by a screeching chorus of winged furies.

At the same time The Minotaur is an opportunity of the composer to return to the milieu of classical mythology, which he had explored in The Mask of Orpheus Athens is required each year to send young men and women for sacrifice to the Minotaur.

Norse hell in the depths of the Royal Opera House. This leads to the final confrontation in which Theseus slays the Minotaur, and in dying Asterios the Minotaur recovers his humanity.

Harrison Birtwistle: The Minotaur: Royal Opera – (Opera Review)

Most probably, what you think of The Minotaur will depend on what you demand from an minotaue. Ariadne is desperate to escape the prison of the island — the prison of her legacy — and sees in Theseus the possibility of escape. The tension between these two personae provides much of the dramatic weight of the opera, though it is critical to note that the librettist and the composer never fall into the easy trap of dichotomising man and animal into expected categories of innocence and implication.

Alan OkeHiereus. Elisabeth MeisterKer. Ariadne cheats so that Theseus chooses the empty hand.

His first victim, a young woman, appears and the Minotaur gores and rapes her. The Minotaur, no less ambiguously characterised than are the other two protagonists, is introduced finally in the first blood sacrifice scene, which takes place in the fifth of seven scenes in the first act. I once took a group of sixth form pupils to a performance of La Boheme, at ENO, believing that, with good tunes and an emotional storyline, it would be a success. Our privacy policy was last updated on Friday 25 May View it here Dismiss.

Passion for Puccini’s Tosca. Retrieved from ” https: David is a co-founder of Bachtrack. His exchanges with Ariadne, infused with genuine sexual tension and menace by both Rice and Reuter, are characterised above all by deception and by subterfuge; both characters have their own agendas that they are unwilling to sacrifice for a higher moral purpose.


The Minotaur The Minotaur: Among them is Theseus. Birtwistle displays an extensive array of different orchestral effects, aided by a large orchestra with considerable arrays of percussion instruments on each side of the pit, in what would normally be stalls circle seats.

She laments and alludes, in a strained and antic recitative, to the situation of moral turpitude to which the island of Crete has descended. He appears inconspicuously out of the crowd, unheralded and moving almost resentfully into the limelight syynopsis contrast to the clear establishment of Ariadne as a dramatic force earlier. This Harold en Italieop. She plays a game of chance with him using a stone: Both she and Theseus see the Minotaur as scapegoat and deliverance.

These means are here employed to ratchet up the dramatic tension so that the pacing of the drama becomes an almost breathless pursuit of some sort of resolution or cadence. As is stressed again and again, and in what is probably the most important lesson the opera seeks to communicate, the distance between the man and the animal, between poise and peril, is almost nothing at all. Stephen Langridge ‘s production is stylish, playing out in the wan imnotaur and oppressive darkness of Alison Chitty ‘s set.

The Minotaur – review

Pomp and circumstance somewhat antithetical to the earthy Birtwistle and to new music in general were for once welcome bedfellows of contemporary opera. A Ker enters to feed on his body.

Tomlinson’s voice retains richness of birtwisstle and immense strength, he has the clearest diction of any opera singer I can think of, and he gives his character true nobility.

The premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s long awaited new opera The Birtwistlrwritten in collaboration with the poet David Harsent, was given on Tuesday to a packed Royal Opera House where the sense of occasion and of expectation was palpable and potent. Can a non-Christian appreciate the St Matthew Passion? He pulls out the bloodied sword from his side and declares that he is the son of Poseidon.