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King Arthur review at Coliseum London

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Choreographer/director Mark Morris brings his own dance group to star in this production of Purcell’s semi-opera, and they take over the show. In a gesture that can only be described as cavalier, Morris junks Dryden’s spoken text, which binds the lengthy musical interludes together. They are literally decontextualised, and what is left makes little sense.

Morris’s directorial stance is thus to present King Arthur ‘as a pageant – a sort of vaudeville – a sequence of production numbers’. One looks in vain, however, for some real razzmatazz, and in any case Purcell and Dryden were aiming for something a little more coherent.

They would probably also have assumed some spectacle in their lavish patriotic work first played in 1691, but it gets little of that in Adrianne Lobel’s low-key, backstage sets and Isaac Mizrahi’s mix-‘n’-don’t-match costumes, which look like a series of random raids on the wardrobe store.

At least the singing is consistently good, even if some of the numbers are left high and dry with no text to cue them in. Conductor Jane Glover delivers a careful if sporadically energetic performance and the orchestra and chorus do pretty well. But this is an odd way to restate the company’s much vaunted commitment to English opera, and a limp end to a season that has hit a high rate of artistic successes – up to this point.

Production Information

Coliseum, London, June 26, 27, 28, 30, July 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8

Composer
Purcell
Director
Mark Morris
Producer
English National Opera
Cast includes
Andrew Foster-Williams, William Berger, Iestyn Davies, James Gilchrist, Gillian Keith, Elizabeth Watts, Mhairi Lawson
Running time
1hr 50mins

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