dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

1984 review at Royal Opera House London

by -

The Royal Opera was widely criticized even before this new opera opened for accepting a piece from an untried operatic composer – though the 75-year-old American Lorin Maazel is a highly experienced conductor – when there are few opportunities for Britain’s best composers to get their work onto this stage. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

1984 turned out to be indigestible. Orwell’s classic novel is a worthwhile subject, a fine cast had been assembled and the strong production was the work of Robert Lepage. The show had everything going for it, in fact, except the score.

Despite Maazel’s long experience conducting all kinds of repertoire, he has failed to come up with music of any real quality. He knows how to write for orchestra and chorus – though even these parts of the work lack individuality – but his writing for voices is woefully dull and under-characterized. Musically, this is a long, thin and depressingly tedious evening.

The cast did their best in trying circumstances. Simon Keenlyside was predictably superb as Winston Smith, Nancy Gustafson made her mark as Julia and Richard Margison consistently impressed as the sinister O’Brien.

The German coloratura Diana Damrau and American bel canto tenor Lawrence Brownlee made some impact in smaller roles.

But the piece was a dismal flop. Despite all the world premiere razzmatazz, there were a couple of boos for Maazel at curtain time – unheard-of for a living composer at this venue.

Production Information

Royal Opera House, London, May 3, 6, 11, 14, 16, 19

Composer
Lorin Maazel
Director
Robert Lepage
Producer
Royal Opera
Cast includes
Simon Keenlyside, Nancy Gustafson, Richard Margison
Running time
3hrs

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
^