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Snow review at CLF Art Cafe, London – ‘an auspicious debut’

Scene from Snow at CLF Arts Cafe, London. Photo: Nick Rutter
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A new company debuts with not one opera but three. Snow is a composite work, with one librettist telling three stories all related to Snow White, each of them set by a different composer. The show takes place on three floors of the CLF Art Cafe, with performers and audience moving downwards as the evening proceeds.

J L Williams constructs a libretto that takes a figure best known from a Disney cartoon on a dark journey, though the successive episodes have diverse origins.

In The Three Ravens, set by Lewis Murphy, Snow White is the cause of dissension between the King and his second wife – the girl’s mother having died in childbirth.

In Lucie Treacher’s The Death of the Seven Dwarves, the diminutive miners whose cottage Snow White imagines breaking into meet a terrible fate. The final opera, Tom Floyd’s The Crystal Casket, is the longest and the most musically complex, with a Prince and his mother arguing over the dead body of Snow White, who eventually comes back to life.

All three scores have their virtues, each setting the text clearly and with a sense of atmosphere, though the individual vocal lines possess less character than the accompaniment for 12-piece ensemble, convincingly delivered here under conductor Christopher Stark.

Murphy’s score provides a subtle and delicate beauty, if not quite enough variety of pace, Treacher’s an uneasy nervous energy and some clever offstage choral effects; but Floyd’s piece offers the greatest textural and coloristic range, bringing the evening to a powerful close.

James Hurley’s production works effectively in Rachel Szmukler’s straightforward sets and each of the five singers makes an appreciable mark. Alice Privett’s vulnerable Snow White links all three pieces, with Rick Zwart’s strong baritone making a particularly notable impression as the King and Prince Raven.

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A new opera company makes an auspicious debut with three works inspired by Snow White