The Moderate Soprano at Duke of York’s Theatre
Somewhere, in the dusty nether regions of every record collection, there will be a recording of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte as conducted by Fritz Busch at the iconic Glyndebourne opera festival. David Hare’s The Moderate Soprano bids the audience to delve behind the vinyl’s baby pink sleeve into the story of the establishment of this thoroughly British tradition, and the life of the event’s eccentric founder Captain John Christie.
Hare has proven time and time again that he is able to write plays that mix light and shade sensitively. From crescendos of uproarious laughter at dialogue that is fast, punchy and Wodehousian, we find shifts to intimate, contemplative moments, where real pain lurks in the silence. In a sense, it is this that distinguishes his 1930s drama – its ability to inject moments of genuine anguish into a script that otherwise bubbles with the kind of mirth you come to expect from the likes of Jeeves and Wooster.
The tight and polished production owes as much to individual performances as to extremely capable directing – with Jeremy Herrin firmly at the helm, allowing the cast of strong characters to weave their way through the playwright’s recitatives and arias. Roger Allam as Christie embodies the quintessentially English, but modulates through the reticence and propriety from comedy to pathos with great effect. All of the above is underpinned by stylish sets that create remarkable depth on the stage and reflect the grandeur of the interwar period without excess.
There is some timely thinking at play in The Moderate Soprano, about a Britain contemplating its role in Europe as the stomping of Nazi jackboots rings through the world of culture and music. Hare asks us to see this as an important touchstone for the nation’s history, when a true Englishman like Christie took in artistes fleeing Germany and Austria to establish a very European-British opera festival on the Sussex Downs.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
The Moderate Soprano is at Duke of York’s Theatre from 6th April until 30th June 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.