Michael Tippett's music is not for everyone, the first year tutor at university practically idolises him and his music while the first violin leader of Dad's orchestra can't stand it. Tippett personally is not a favourite but I don't dislike him either, if anything the feeling is appreciation. King Priam is one of his best, the music is clever, very individual and sometimes beautiful though also strange and it is easy to see why people won't like it. And while the story is easy to criticise, often as stilted and ponderous, it still makes for gripping musical drama and is appropriately direct. This is a very powerful production, if you love good opera productions you'll love this and if you are a fan of King Priam you'll love it even more. The costumes and sets are a mix of ancient and futuristic and it fits the concept and the story wonderfully. The staging from Nicholas Hytner is incredibly compelling, violent at times but in a gut-wrenching. The cluttered nature of it later on is ideal for the carnage the war brings, and emphasised even more by the stains of blood and such, which makes things further unsettling. Musically, there is nothing to complain about. The orchestra play beautifully, shining in the more sparse moments and any sudden sounds indicated in the orchestration have the impact they ought to. O Rich Soiled Land stands out. Roger Norrington does a fine job with the conducting, musical, accommodating while always moving the drama forward. Robin Lough's video directing doesn't try to do anything flashy and allows us to be intimate with the action. And then we are treated to great performances all round. Rodney Macann's Priam is noble, tragic and authoritative and sung with deep feeling and rich tone, one Amazon reviewer described it as a tour-De-force and that couldn't be more true. Sarah Walker sounds radiant and shapes her music faithfully and appealingly. Neil Jenkins makes us relate to and hate Achilles, he also has a resonant voice and really comes into his own in O Rich Soiled Land. Anne Mason and Janet Price like Walker also sing beautifully and are commanding in their roles, while Christopher Gillett makes his part easy from looking at and hearing him when it really isn't(in fact all the principals' music is difficult to sing). Howard Haskin and Omar Ebrahim characterise with great effect that their conflicts are made believable. Overall, an extraordinarily powerful and effective production. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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