If you’ve never been to an opera before, few people would recommend Vaughan Williams. Maybe Mozart or Verdi or Puccini. Something with famous arias you’ll recognize from TV ads and movie soundtracks. But the English National Opera’s new production of Pilgrim’s Progress really isn’t such a bad way in. In fact the lack of famous numbers will mean you focus on the opera in a different way. Instead of snoozing while you wait for the next big tune, let the gentle pace of VW’s lovely music carry you through. It’s surprisingly easy to get drawn into this production by Japanese director, Yoshi Oida and Dutch designer, Tom Schenk. The first full-scale production since the premiere 60 years ago, it draws on Japanese Noh theatre.
Don’t be put off by the religion. Yes, it’s based on John Bunyan’s Christian allegory but even Vaughan Williams wasn’t a Christian. Our pilgrim here is Everyman, and everyone can relate to his journey through life – from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City where he achieves spiritual enlightenment. Okay so it isn’t the most dramatic work you’ll see on a stage. The pace is rather like that of a baroque opera. But the music is well conducted by Martyn Brabbins, there is plenty of excellent singing (particularly from our Pilgrim, baritone Roland Wood) and Schenk’s Vanity Fair scene is like Meadham Kirchhoff on acid with it’s decadence and sudden burst of colour.
There are only 7 performances so catch it on November 20, 22, 24 0r 28 – before the Nutcracker season starts! This will be much more inspiring.
English National Opera
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
Vaughan Williams after John Bunyan
Conductor, Martyn Brabbins
Director, Yoshi Oïda
- COWBOYS, RANGERS, BULLS.