Tuesday 31 October 2023

Masque of Vengeance: a sleazy new opera in London & Manchester

Masque of Vengeance:  a sleazy new opera in London & Manchester
The Music Troupe is giving the first performances of Edward Lambert's opera Masque of Vengeance, adapted from The Revenger's Tragedy (Thomas Middleton 1606) which depicts the violent lust for sex and power in a dystopian, criminal regime but does so with a witty and sardonic irony. The 80-minute chamber opera for nine singers accompanied by piano duet was specially written to give the impression of a 'grand' opera in a small theatre.

Masque of Vengeance is an attempt to emulate Italian opera in which the voices are pre-eminent. In a throwback to an old tradition, Vindicio, the revenger, is a young man played by a female mezzo-soprano. There are set pieces of arias and ensembles and the work has the feel of a fast-moving noir as the plots and sub-plots play out. 

Political manoeuvres in Jacobean times were tumultuous (e.g. the Gunpowder Plot of 1605) and Thomas Middleton's play casts a cynical eye over the amorality of powerful dynasties coupled with the politics of gender. David Edwards, directing, has updated the setting to the modern-day. 

This is The Music Troupe's latest offering to bring the art of ‘beautiful singing’ to new musical dramas which are tailored, rather than trimmed, to an intimate experience. Large institutions take an enormous risk in producing new operas, so they're as rare as hen's teeth. The standard repertory has shrunk to the dozen or two works that can attract an audience. How can this state of affairs be sustained? What other art form comprises such a small number of 'classic' favourites? Opera is clearly capable of infinite variation and renewal so surely new opera should be 'out there'? At the very least, small-scale works can be accessible, economical and suited to all kinds of venues.

Masque of Vengeance is at The Cockpit in London from 7 to 9 November 2023 [further details] and at The Stoller Hall, Manchester on 12 November 2023 [further details]

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