Glyndebourne Festival Opera @ Festival Theatre
8:00pm, Tues 7 Mar 2006
Another Festival, another contemporary opera production. And this year, we’re blessed with a sterling piece of work in Flight. Based on the plight and interactions of a plethora of characters trapped overnight in a present-day airport terminal, Flight is a lavish spectacle that convinced me of the power of opera as a medium.
The first thing that strikes you are the gorgeous sets. And they are staggering – there’s a sense of real depth to them, and different facades raise and lower to create a different viewpoint to the same structure. The attention to detail is rich throughout – the windsock in the window of the terminal, the weatherman on the TV screen in the terminal, the transition of lighting in the terminal as time passes: from midday, to afternoon, to dusk, through night, to the dawn.
The characters themselves are works of art, too – the Refugee, stuck in the terminal waiting for his brother. The couple trying to re-ignite their relationship. The steward and stewardess, with their passion restricted to those few moments they share between flights. The older woman, waiting for her lover to arrive. The diplomat heading to Minsk; his pregnant wife reluctant to leave, and shocked at what her life has become – from silk and cashmere to nappies. And the glorious Controller, who cynically overlooks all that occurs in the terminal. All are wonderfully realised, but special mention must be made of the Controller; (a) she’s an absolute babe, and (2) her singing was incredible – soaring vocals from pleasantly low to impossibly high. Bless her.
Dodgy bits, preventing a perfect production? Well, yes, there are a few; despite the fantastic sets, there are still some bad sight-lines (I didn’t get to see the Stewardess’ position during coitus). The surtitles were displayed in a most inconsistent manner – spoken word dialogue was (sometimes) displayed, but high-pitched dialogue buried beneath soaring orchestrations were mostly not… they never seemed to have the information you wanted. And the third act dragged a bit; the overt sentimentality of the Refugee’s plight meanders too long.
These qualms aside, I have no problem admitting that I cried my eyes out – in joy – during this. I was utterly overwhelmed by the richness of the production – the wonderful performances, the fantastic melodies, the sets, and the emotions they all combined to create. It staggers me no end that people – even in the hellishly expensive Premium Reserve seating – would leave early (I lost both my neighbours during the course of the performance). No matter – I loved it; and that second act was incredible.
Overheard between two elderly ladies at the end of Act II, which closed with the suggestion of a little homosexual dalliance: “I don’t mind the music, but the plot’s a little seedy.” Hahahahaaaaa.