The Winter’s Tale at the London Coliseum
Written and conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth and directed by Rory Kinnear, the world premier of The Winter’s Tale at the London Coliseum is a remarkable rendition of Shakespeare’s classic. Following many attempts to create operatic adaptations of this play, this piece achieves the goal substantially well.
A story of tyranny, jealousy, mistreatment of women, grief and redemption, The Winter’s Tale‘s plot is grave and tragic, but after 90 minutes of solemn mood, the final act delivers reprieve, as if to give hope that a miracle will cure even the most dire situation.
Without preamble, the opera delves into the narrative almost immediately, following a brief appearance of a boy alone among effigies. When King Leontes (Lain Paterson) becomes jealous of his pregnant wife Hermione’s (Sophie Bevan) friendship with his guest, King Polixenes (Leigh Melrose), he accuses her of adultery, imprisons her and exiles her newborn child, which he calls a bastard. The child is a baby girl, named Perdita (Samantha Price), whom Leontes has ordered to be killed, but who is instead carried to safety in a distant land. Hermione dies, and Leontes is then wracked with grief and remorse. Perdita falls in love with Florizel (Anthony Gregory), Polixenes’s only son and heir. Polixenes forbids the union and the pair escape, having been told they should seek King Leontes.
Wigglesworth’s score is impressive, technically exceptional and innovative – a kind of melding of the classical and contemporary with a dash of film noir flair. The sound is fluent and passionate but disciplined and subtle, including austere clarinet, percussion and brass, eloquent piano and harp, and dramatic string intermezzo. The libretto, written by Wigglesworth, is close to identical to Shakespeare’s original, with some characters and scenes left out.
Performances are of the highest calibre, particularly those of bass-baritone Paterson, soprano Bevan and mezzo soprano Price. Bevan’s Hermione is notably expressive and superb, with a voice and range that powerfully convey emotion. Extraordinary also is the hauntingly lovely chorus, pleading for Hermione’s release and praying to Apollo.
The set (Vicki Mortimer) and lighting (Jon Clark) are unique and breathtaking, with very lush and dramatic effects. The contemporary style costuming (Moritz Junge) is well conceived.
His first time directing opera, Rory Kinnear has said, “If it’s a disaster, I apologise”. Clearly the director has done very well, as The Winter’s Tale is a beautiful, seamless, outstanding production.
Photo: Johan Persson
The Winter’s Tale is at London Coliseum from 27th February until 14th March 2017. Book your tickets here.
Watch the trailer for The Winter’s Tale here:
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