Performance | Plate-Smashing & Slapstick | Modern Era | Opera

The almost uncategorizable Irish composer Gerald Barry, whose untrammelled imagination and irreverent wit is displayed in operas such as his 1990 ‘opera within an opera’, The Intelligence Park, returned to the stage more recently with his take on Oscar Wilde’s comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest.

The Los Angeles concert premiere (conducted by Thomas Adès, a great champion of Barry’s work) and the stage premiere in Nancy in 2013 revealed ideas that were strikingly counter to the refinement of Wildean wit: the aural slapstick of Algernon’s appalling piano playing (although in reality making virtuosic demands on the pianist), Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax expressing their loathing for each other with the rhythmic smashing of plates, and Lady Bracknell played by a bass, with no attempt to make his voice remotely feminine – this was a new flavour of comedy in modern opera. The piece entered the repertoire rapidly with productions at major venues across Europe and the US.

Performance | Entertainment … Or What? | Modern Era | Opera


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