The Importance of Being Earnest

  • Opera & Dance
The Importance of Being Earnest


Thu, 31/03/2016 - 16:06


Photo: ROH/stephen Cummiskey
Claudia Boyle as Cecily Cardew
31 March, 2016

STILL hilarious, dottily OTT in a flamboyant way, Gerald Barry’s comic opera The Importance of Being Earnest, based on Oscar Wilde’s play, is back again in the Royal Opera House’s 2013 production.

As the ROH’s Linbury Theatre is being renovated, the revival is being staged at the Barbican Theatre.

It’s not the worse for the move. Rather, the larger theatre with raked audience seating provides more space for the opera to blossom in Ramin Gray’s staging.

There’s room for the 20-strong brass Britten Sinfonia to occupy one-third of the stage without cramping the singers as they get up to all sorts of capers.

Wilde’s stream of witticisms and facetious whimsiness never cease to amuse in Barry’s cut-down libretto while the opera’s music propels the action on stage. In a typical Barry touch, Auld Lang Syne is put through the compositional mangle to come up with all sorts of variations. 

Undoubtedly, the opera’s highlight is the great plate-smashing scene. Gwendolen and Cecily are taking their afternoon tea. Niceties exchanged through megaphones give way to sourness, growing hostilities and insults thrown at one another. Forty plates are smashed to pieces at one side of the stage as hostilities worsen while Barry’s thunderous brass explodes on the off-beat at the other side.

Stephanie Marshall’s Gwendolen is something of a demented Sloane while Claudia Boyle’s Cecily could be up for tennis any day.

Alan Ewing is suitably bombastic as the male Lady Bracknell while both Benedict Nelson and Paul Curievici are keen to be Earnest. 

Conductor Tim Murray displays great dexterity in handling Barry’s difficult score.

• The Importance of Being Earnest is at the Barbican Theatre on April 1 and 2 at 7.30pm, and on April 3 at 2.30pm, 020 7304 4000, 

• The April 2 show will be live-steamed on the ROH YouTube channel: Opera House

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