Wednesday 28 August 2019

Noah Mosley and Elisabetta Campeti's Aurora at the Grimeborn Festival

Katherine Aitken, Isolde Roxby Bury Court Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
Katherine Aitken, Isolde Roxby
Bury Court Opera (Photo Robert Workman)
Noah Mosely & Elisabetta Campeti Aurora; Isolde Roxby, Katherine Aitken, Andrew Tipple, Jean-Max Lattemann, dir: Aylin Bozok; Bury Court Opera at the Grimeborn Festival
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 24 August 2019 Star rating: 3.0 (★★★)
Noah Mosely's irrepressibly romantic new opera returns to Grimeborn after its premiere earlier this year

On Saturday 24 August 2019, Bury Court Opera’s production of Aurora appeared as part of the Grimeborn Festival at the Arcola Theatre. [See Robert's review of the opera's premiere at Bury Court]. At Saturday’s performance, directed by Aylin Bozok, Isolde Roxby and Katherine Aitken sang Aurora and the Wild Woman; Andrew Tipple the King. Jean-Max Lattemann was the Mountain Witch, whilst Dominic Bowe and Magid El Bushra were the two Princes. Aurora is the second opera Bury Court has commissioned from composer Noah Mosley. Noah is a London based conductor and composer and Music Director of the Helios Collective – is there a theme here, Helios being the sibling of Eos (Aurora)? The libretto is by Elisabetta Campeti.

Aurora the goddess of dawn whose tears fell as morning dew is in this incarnation the protagonist in an Italian folk story set in the Dolomites. The Dolomites’ peculiar shapes and colours have spawned many a tale and myth down the years. It’s not explained upon what particular myth it is based, but the blurb told us that it’s a journey of spiritual awakening, sacrifice and love that ‘deeply resonates with our modern times’.

The simple premise revolves around a Princess who suffers from a terrible and mysterious illness. Her overprotective father, the King, is desperate to protect her from the disease that killed her mother. Encountering a charismatic Wild Woman in the forest he discovers a potential cure – so, natch, one thing leads to another and before they know where they are, they’re all in a right old two and eight. To avoid impending disaster the Princess must then embark on a series of ‘magical trials’.

First thing to say is that it was a very handsome show. Designer Holly Pigott’s monochrome aesthetic was particularly striking. Aylin Bozok’s direction was unfussy, giving us plenty of bewitching appeal and buckets of wit in the ensembles. Noah Mosley’s music was irrepressible. He’s ‘committed to opera that speaks to a wide audience’ so has scoured music’s back catalogue to bring us a straight-forwardly unaffected, if rather derivative work. Stylistically romantic it does the business in generating the energy of a mythical and fantastical land with oodles of cheeky charm.

The performers too were on their best form, Isolde Roxby (Aurora) and Katherine Aitken (Wild Woman), essentially the fulcra of the story had energy to spare which drove the show forward. Indeed, the whole cast were accomplished performers. Not only vocally talented but committed. Shout out to the chorus for making me laugh.

But…, for me, the whole enterprise was hobbled by the book. It couldn’t seem to decide whether it wanted to be a straight forward tale full of sparkly princesses and princes with an oh so predictable and faintly misogynistic moral or something a bit more portentous about the rapacious mis-use of our planet as implied by the director’s note - which I wished I hadn’t read. (It didn’t warrant that amount of elucidation.)

Trying to impose Wagnerian amounts of symbolism onto such a simple tale really would have needed an entirely different approach. We needed more than pasteboard cyphers and banalities if we were being asked to explore with any real clarity the drama and pathos of a young girl’s moral journey. Surely this was her personal story of self-discovery, and the Princes were just a distraction. Aurora should have been pushed ‘to the limits of self-knowledge’ rather than the limits of credulity.

Noah Mosley & Elisabetta Campetti: Aurora
Grimeborn Festival
Arcola Theatre
Bury Court Opera
Saturday 24 August 2019
Aurora : Isolde Roxby
King : Andrew Tipple
Wild Woman : Katherine Aitken
Prince : Dominic Bowe
Mountain Witch : Jean-Max Lattemann
Prince / Owl : Magid El Bushra
Chorus : Phil Clieve, Emily Garland, Ingunn Gyda Hrafnkelsdóttir, Jack Lawrence-Jones, Olivia Alice Martin, Elspeth Marrow, Matthew Thistleton and James Rhoads
Director : Aylin Bozok
Designer : Holly Pigott
Lighting Designer : Ben Pickersgill
Conductor : Noah Mosley

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  • A tale of two violas: Imaginative viola duo disc with music associated with two 20th century viola greats (★★★½) - CD review
  • Bayreuth’s Tristan und Isolde was grand and convincing in every conceivable way harbouring a sting in its tail (★★★) - opera review
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