Royal Opera: The Importance of Being Earnest at the Barbican
The Importance of Being Earnest in opera form at the Barbican does the original fin-de-siècle play full justice. Director Ramin Gray has successfully managed to embody the Wildian spirit in musical form, turning it into a frolicsome trip into the decadent late Victorian culture.
Oscar Wilde is a writer who needs no introduction. His aphoristic writing style has established him amongst the most celebrated writers to have lived. The plot of the opera runs close along the lines of the original — two young men wanting to marry a woman they love yet having to deceive her in order to be able to do so. Gradually, their dishonesty is revealed in the most hilarious manner, yet in the end, all turns out for the best.
The operatic version of the seminal play remains equally quick-witted and the musical accompaniment only emphasises the comedic plot. Ramin Gray creates an experience that is reminiscent of the light-hearted early Italian comic operas, translated into the context of the British 19th century. All singers perform brilliantly and manage to bring their characters and their hypocrisy to life through their spectacular voices. The performance of Alan Ewing in the role of both archetypal patriarch and overbearing mother, Lady Bracknell, is particularly marvellous. The reinterpretation of Lady Bracknell as a man in a woman’s costume in itself gives the role further hilarity, but Ewing”s personal realisation is also of high comic value.
The set is kept simple, but as the plot does not depend on specific props, this does no harm whatsoever to the quality of the interpretation and amplifies the power of the vocal performances. At points, the fabulous composition even manages to dominate over the iconically absurd moments that were penned nearly 120 years ago — had Wilde seen this production, it probably would have upset his pride.
The Importance of Being Earnest is on at the Barbican from 29th March until 3rd April 2016, for further information or to book visit here.