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Aurora review at Bury Court, Farnham – ‘an exuberant and exhilarating new opera’

The cast of Aurora at Bury Court Opera. Photo: Robert Workman
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The enterprising Bury Court Opera opens its final season with its second commission written by the young British composer Noah Mosley. The first, Mad King Suibhne, premiered in 2017. Aurora, based on an Italian fairytale rather than an Irish legend, is more ambitious in scale and scope.

Mosley’s music is firmly tonal. He relishes rapid switches of mood and excels at open-hearted lyricism and large-scale ensembles. In Aurora, the references range from Baroque to Broadway with, in the prelude, a dark hint of Beethoven.

Elisabetta Campeti’s libretto – sometimes poetic, sometimes lapsing into cliché – offers him plenty of opportunities: a defiant princess causes havoc with nature by appropriating a powerful dawn spell from a wild woman. She still gets her prince in the end, though – just not the one she was expecting.

In Act I, when she is mysteriously pining away, the grotesque comedy recalls Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges. In Act II, things get overstretched when her magical trials enter the realms of Strauss’s Die Frau Ohne Schatten. Throughout, though, the music retains its exuberance and director Aylin Bozok and designer Holly Pigott create mystery and spectacle with much symbolic use of white (for the brittle environment of court) and black (for the natural world).

In the demanding central roles, Isolde Roxby brings glowing substance to Princess Aurora’s sweeping lines and Katherine Aitken is a focused, tangy force of nature as the Wild Woman. Meanwhile, Dominic Bowe makes a passionately ringing Exiled Prince and the warm solidity of Andrew Tipple’s bass opens the way for the King’s transition from overbearing father to loving parent. The 11-strong chorus is exceptional in all its human, animal and supernatural incarnations.

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Noah Mosley's exhilarating and exuberant new fairytale opera