Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Passion review at Anvil, Basingstoke – ‘an opera-ballet of elegiac beauty’

Nikita Goile and Johnny Herford in Passion at Anvil Basingstoke. Photo: Clive Barda
by -

Pascal Dusapin’s Passion, a meditation on the Orpheus myth, was premiered 10 years ago at the Aix-en-Provence Festival, but this collaboration between Music Theatre Wales, National Dance Company Wales and the London Sinfonietta is its first UK production. After Basingstoke it tours to London, Cardiff, Snape, Salford and Mold.

With directing duties shared between an opera specialist (Michael McCarthy) and a choreographer (Caroline Finn), it is billed as an opera-ballet.

Two solo singers (simply Him and Her in Amanda Holden’s translation of the original Italian text) share the stage and sometimes engage physically with six black-clad dancers. Six further performers, the vocal ensemble EXAUDI, sing offstage.

The black-box decor is adorned only by a floaty imperial yellow curtain and a blue ladder rising into the flies.

Passion is less a drama than an evocation of moods and emotions. While the tone is predominantly elegiac, gestures occasionally signal extreme distress. The generically poetic words, at least amidst the ravishing sonic blend produced by the Anvil’s bell-like acoustic, can be hard to decipher.

There are no doubts about the exquisite quality of the score or the meticulousness and intensity of the musical performance under Geoffrey Paterson.

Dusapin’s swathes of sound, sometimes overlapping, sometimes almost pointillist, remain translucent and coherent, never sinking into indulgence. He complements conventional orchestral instruments with judicious use of an oud, a synthesizer, electronic noise and, to melancholy effect, a lonely harpsichord.

Johnny Herford’s supple high baritone evokes shades of Debussy’s Pelleas, while, Jennifer France, in a role written for Barbara Hannigan, soars and swoops like a swallow on the wing.

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
Opera-ballet that makes up for a lack of drama with its musical beauty