Gerald Barry’s first opera premiered in 1990 with a libretto by Vincent Deane, though not much has been heard of it since.
These days, however, Barry is a big noise in the opera world, with the first full production of his Alice’s Adventures Under Ground arriving on the main stage of the Royal Opera House in February; so, as a taster, The Intelligence Park is revived in the Linbury in this co-production with Music Theatre Wales.
Deane’s narrative is set in 1753 in Dublin. Intent upon marrying Jerusha (Rhian Lois), daughter of the wealthy Sir Joshua Cramer (Stephen Richardson), the composer Paradies (Michel de Souza) is trying to write an opera but is distracted by his developing interest in the Italian castrato Serafino (Patrick Terry), who flummoxes everyone by himself eloping with Jerusha: operatic scenes involving the puppet-headed characters Wattle (played by Serafino) and Daub (Jerusha) intersperse the main action.
Dramatically, the result is hard to follow, with a text stuffed with arcane references that really need footnotes, but in what is a strong musical performance, Barry’s punchy score – which already shows elements of his strikingly original style – certainly comes through.
Nigel Lowery’s clever, colourful production perfectly matches the opera’s absurdist style, while the cast works hard to maintain manic momentum and a constant sense of parody. The result is a wildly entertaining ensemble piece, with Barry’s rumbustious score clearly the main event.
Conductor Jessica Cottis leads a firm musical account, with members of the contemporary specialist ensemble London Sinfonietta delivering valiant playing throughout.