Scottish Opera's first performances of a Philip Glass opera, his adaptation of Kafka's The Trial, was given in a quite outstanding production.
Scottish audiences have had few opportunities to assess the prolific oper.atic output of Philip Glass, so it was good to see this excellent adaptation of Kafka's unsettling novel. The moulding of the text by Christopher Hampton was very helpful - just as concise as an operatic libretto should be, and so rarely is. The music did, of course, contain much of Glass's trademark 'minimalist' style. However it must be said that he now incorporates so much variation that the term no longer seems in any way appropriate. Indeed this work contains a fascinating mix, even incorporating an enjoyable scattering of characteristic 'klesmer' music.
There was plenty to challenge the orchestra, and under Derek Clark's direction, the musical side of the evening worked very well indeed. The staging, by Michael McCarthy, Simon Banham and Ace McCarron, also succeeded in avoiding the threat of monotony that can be a problem with productions that incorporate elements of expressionist style.
The cast played with complete commitment, led by a tireless performance of the victim by Nicholas Lester, who has developed over the past few years into an excellent singing actor. Most of the other singers were required to be chameleons, with multiple roles to be put across. They all achieved great success. Perhaps young Hazel McBain and Elgan Llyr Thomas should be singled out for their brilliant interpretations of the roles of Leni and Tintorelli. But all the singers were excellent at projecting the text.
This was a very impressive exercise that did full justice to the sense of disorientation produced by Kafka.
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