This production is a very good one, if not quite as good as the 1988 ENO performance with Thomas Allen, Phillip Langridge and Richard Van Allan. Some of the lighting is on the dark side, and the tempo for Claggart's aria "Handsomely done...O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness!" was a little too slow. But that was all really that came across as things that weren't so good. The ship set is really beautifully rendered and realistic, and the idea of setting it against a black void symbolising the travelling through darkness. The staging is intelligent, the staging for the Epilogue is effective in its simplicity and "Handsomely done...O beauty, o handsomeness, goodness!" is chillingly subtle. Britten's music is both beautiful and evocative, the orchestral playing is lyrical and haunting as well as allowing the little things to come through. The chorus are fully engrossed in the drama and their sound is warm, though their singing accompanying Claggart's aria is a tad flat. The conducting is solid on the whole, musical and authoritative if not always exciting. The principal singing and performances are excellent, with the much-missed Phillip Langridge outstanding(and perhaps definitive also) as Captain Vere.
He sings wonderfully throughout with great command of the timbre, crystal-clear diction and an appealing timbre(his rendition of the Epilogue will bring tears to the eyes). And his acting is equally commanding and as well as heartfelt and nuanced. Dwayne Croft gives some of his best ever singing in the title role, a full warm sound that is handsome to listen to, evident in particular in "Look Through the Port". Overall it is a charming and moving performance, and closer in age for the character than Allen for ENO(though Allen was great in the role). James Morris sounds unsteady at times but has the right chillingly dark sound for Claggart(up there with Scarpia, Iago, Hagen, Klytamnestra and Barnaba as one of opera's most evil characters). Despite looking like such a nice and sympathetic man he does succeed in making us believe in Claggart's evil, relishing one of the most chilling lines in opera "But alas, alas! A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehends it, and suffers...". The supporting cast are fine too, Redburn, the Novice and Donald are sung vibrantly and well acted, while Met stalwart Paul Pliska sings sonorously and characterises Dankser with crusty warmth. Overall, very good production of one of Britten's best operas and compares very favourably with the ENO production. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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