Glare at the Royal Opera HouseCultureTheatre
Set in the near future, in a city quite like London, Glare tells the story of a woman who may or may not be an android. As the evidence mounts on both sides, her lover is thrown into confusion and despair, trying to hold on to the relationship that he thought he had found. Glare investigates identity, existential struggle and the way doubt works on the human mind in an opera that seamlessly melds tradition with a contemporary feel.
The music, written by the acclaimed Danish-German composer Søren Nils Eichberg, effectively conjures the city around the story – trains and cars are almost audible as they power past the scene offstage. As with Eichberg’s previous work, the score challenges, with crunchy harmonies and orchestration that does not defy convention, but pushes its boundaries nonetheless. Along with melodic romantic strings, there are hip-hop drum licks and unmistakably Scandinavian electronic basslines that are always surprising. Eichberg does a good job of making you feel the tension that the characters do. All this is carried off by the wonderful CHROMA ensemble.
The creative team of director Thaddeus Strassberger, set designer Madeleine Boyd and lighting designer Matt Haskins was consistently impressive. The lighting and set worked in tandem to allow the mood to swing in an instant with the music, and even contribute to the paranoia of the show, with neon lights that questioned the characters directly with doubts and indictments.
The use of shadows was also striking, with one scene taking place literally under the shadow of the psychotic Michael, despite him not actually being present. The rest of the set was defiantly normal. As we watched Michael (Ashley Riches) devastate all-comers at pool, it was evident that these were not the mythical characters you might expect to find in an opera. Though they were just the “normal” people who might sit next to you on the bus, their emotions and dramas were just as heightened and important as those of legend.
Glare has a refreshing science-fiction libretto (penned by German playwright Hannah Dübgen), making it very accessible. It is raunchy, unsettling and sometimes downright scary, but if you ever wondered whether opera has a place in contemporary culture, Glare might convince you it does.
Photo: Stephen Cummiskey
Glare is on at the Royal Opera House until 22nd November 2014, for further information or to book visit here.