Welsh National Opera: The Makropulos Affair Review

Welsh National Opera: The Makropulos Affair Review


Posted 2022-11-09 by dpmfollow

Tue 08 Nov 2022

Welsh National Opera's series of new productions of Janacek operas has given us a host of stunning performances and its culmination in one of his lesser known works The Makropulos Affair is a bold choice. And it is a choice that pays off.

The Makropulos Affair is a strange opera because much of its complicated storyline is actually irrelevant to the main focus. The story begins in the middle of a long-running court case over the ownership of a piece of land and property.

Like so many such court cases, it is complex with a host of names and issues being thrown around. But the legal detail is in many ways simply a method to introduce us to a series of characters and to give the mysterious opera diva Emilia Marty a chance to shine. She strides into the solicitor's office claiming to hold the key to the conundrum and capturing the hearts of all.

Emilia is an enigmatic character who inspires almost idolatry in those around her despite being rude and objectionable to all. But there is a mystery here – how can a woman who looks so young claim to know what has happened more than 100 years ago?

Angeles Blancas Gulin is mesmerising as Emilia. She is imperious and obnoxious and yet we gradually see the cracks in the wall she has built between her and others. Emilia's tragedy is that she has lost the ability to love or even care about other people and that means she is alone in the world. As her story unfolds, we realise that at the heart of this seemingly powerful woman is a small child who has suffered incredible pain and loss.

Nicky Spence plays her adoring would-be suitor Albert Gregor with plenty of gusto – continuing to follow and defend Emilia despite her clear disdain. Alan Oke gives a comedy twist as the infatuated Count Hauk-Sendorf who is prepared to give up all for Emilia and freely admits that he is insane – and not just with love for her.

Directed by Olivia Fuchs, the production achieves a good balance of this comedy and tragedy. In Act II as we see Emilia capture the hearts of so many, there is an element of the ridiculous as admirer after admirer parades before her like a series of well-groomed cockerels. And yet when the truth emerges, many of those same men see her for what she really is – vulnerable and in pain.

Nicola Turner has set the piece clearly in the 1920s with Louise Brooks pearls and cigarette tapers. She also uses colour and texture as part of the story. In Act II, when Emilia is at the height of her glory, the set and costumes are painted in red and black with heaps of crimson flowers on the floor and Emilia in a dramatic scarlet and black ballgown and red wig. But in Act III the colour palette becomes white, and Emilia's gown is simpler, her white hair less dressed – until the final moments when she loses her wigs completely and becomes bald.

The theme of time is constantly before us with clocks prominent in the scenes, a little like a Cinderella reminder that the final hour is nigh. And there is a filmic quality to the production which is heightened by Sam Sharples' use of video with black and white images appearing during the first overture and then reappearing as additional narrative.

Janacek's music also has a hint of the plush soundtracks which accompanied the classic age of silent movies and the orchestra, conducted by Tomas Hanus, relishes this, bringing all of the richness of its sound to the fore. Indeed in the finale some of the orchestra members are even to be spotted in the audience boxes.

This is a plush and insightful production of The Makropulos Affair which will hopefully remain in WNO's repertoire into the future.

WNO continue at Birmingham Hippodrome this week until Sat 12 November with La Boheme and Migrations, seehttps://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/

#theatre -reviews
!date 08/11/2022 -- 08/11/2022
70804 - 2023-01-26 01:49:30


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