Rick Jones Music Blog

Nothing creates suspense like opera which has music to delay climaxes and fill the void between choice and decision, voting and envelope-opening which is always rather strained on Strictly Come Dancing. Baritone Edward Grint as the vacillating Poet must choose between life which is work and love which is death, though he does not give the impression that he is one to create masterpieces were he to choose the former. We must expect the decision may change him.

The logic is in the story of Orpheus’ voyage to the realm of death to try to rescue his beloved Eurydice. They make an appearance incarnate as the dry-voiced tenor Julian Podger and warm soprano Emily Phillips offering the advice that ‘Love is the duty you owe Life’ which seems to urge the Poet towards destruction. There’s a father-figure in the background too, a suicide who represents the easy choice. The hard one is to continue the artistic endeavour. This is proposed only by Lucy Williams’ somewhat contemptuous Princess, haughty and beautiful, expressing much through her exquisite singing as well as her looks askance at other cast members behind their music stands.

The DVD (with accompanying CD) shows a concert staging of the composer Ed Hughes’ and librettist Roger Morris’ work with a filmed backdrop in the frame of a mirror reacting in images to the unfolding events. The candle represents life. Counter-tenor Andrew Radley sings the lover with harsh flutey tone. It is a sonorous flute, which, with drums, steals the orchestral plaudits in the fourth scene. The Poet sings ‘There can be no greater love than the love I lost’ hinting at a religious message which may just be a reference too far. Still an absorbing piece and an exciting introduction to Ed Hughes’ music.

—Rick Jones