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Blond Eckbert and Other Stories review at Linbury Studio Theatre London

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Judith Weir has produced a slimmed-down version of her opera Blond Eckbert, premiered by ENO in 1993 for The Opera Group’s current tour. Composed to her own libretto based on a story by the German romantic writer Ludwig Tieck, the piece has a dark fairy-tale ambience as the central character gradually discovers the dismaying truth about himself and his wife, who turns out to be his sister.

John Fulljames’s production brings it up to date in Adam Wiltshire’s neat and tidy designs, which incorporate with ease its surreal or magical elements.

Musically, it is an elegant, economical piece, which nevertheless conveys essential narrative and atmosphere.

Owen Gilhooly is powerful as the increasingly fraught Eckbert, with Heather Shipp subtly evasive as his mysterious wife and Claire Wild memorable as the pervasively present Bird. Mark Wilde enjoys himself in the three roles of Walther, Hugo and the Old Woman.

Together with the effective conductor, Patrick Bailey and his fine ten-piece ensemble these four soloists are joined by the fascinating Lore Lixenberg in the first half, comprising Weir’s shorter Really? and Kenneth Hesketh’s new Small Tales, tall tales, mostly based on works by the Brothers Grimm. Beautifully written for voices and instruments, Weir’s three-part work starts the programme stylishly. Hesketh’s quartet of tales is slightly less assured, notably in the vocal writing, but the production makes good sense of both in what is an intriguing evening.

Production Information

Linbury Studio Theatre, London, June 14-17, then touring

Composers
Judith Weir/Kenneth Hesketh
Director
John Fulljames
Producer
The Opera Group
Cast includes
Owen Gilhooly, Lore Lixenberg, Heather Shipp, Claire Wild, Mark Wilde
Running time
2hrs

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