Thursday, 25 November 2010


24/11/10, ENO

2 hrs 20 mins. Superfluous Smoking alert.

A real cracker, not so much for the music as for Simon McBurney's staggering direction. Never less than enthralling it was theatre with music rather than opera.
A dying dog (a puppet with two voices... a counter-tenor and a raucous contralto belting out animal noises through a megaphone) is rescued by a professor who takes it home, feeds it up, then subjects it to an experiment in which its testicles and heart are replaced with those of a human being. It duly turns into a man, feral and dog-like in his primitive emotions but terrifyingly adept at manipulating the petty politics of Stalinist Moscow, who has to be (bloodily) turned back into an animal.
It's a political satire which might have had few legs were it not for McBurney's numerous interventions. Other theatre directors we've recently seen making their debut at this address failed because they clearly didn't trust the music to do much of the work for them and undermined it or added unnecessary business. Superficially you could level the same charge at McBurney except that everything he does helps rather than hinders the music, and it's all so cleverly and wittily done.
The operations take place in shadow form behind a screen. There are video projections, a square playing area bare to the wings, processions of patients, tenants, political activists and the like. A constant delight. This is written up a couple of weeks after the event, so here are some reviews:

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