Consistently Infrequent

December 2, 2011

Castor and Pollux, London Coliseum, London (English National Opera)

Filed under: Theatre — Tony Breyal @ 12:19 am

Having never been to an Opera before (despite having worked opposite the Royal Opera House for 3.5 years), I decided to keep an eye out for a cheep ticket for whichever opera came across my path. So when I saw a special offer for central stalls at the London Coliseum for an ENO (English National Opera) production of Castor and Pollux for discounted tickets (£97 reduced to £20) I jumped at the opportunity! Plus it was the closing night performance which always adds a bit of extra energy.

The Plot

Two brothers are in love with the same woman. The older brother, Pollux, is set to marry her but seeing the affection she and his younger brother, Castor, have for one another decides to let them get married instead. At the end of the wedding celebrations they are attacked and Castor dies. Pollux vows to rescue Castor from Hell whatever the cost to himself.

The Theatre

This is a beautiful theatre. As I sat in my central stalls seat I was in awe of what a work of art the place is. Shame they don’t let you take photo’s of it (I didn’t try because that no photography rule applies across all theatres it seems, though some people ignored it). In row K I had a clear view of the stage, apart from on several occasions when the gentleman in front of me leaned backwards. This wouldn’t have been a problem if my row and the row in front weren’t in perfect aligniment with one another because then the centre of my seat would’ve been been inbetween the edges of the two in front, instead of directly behind the seat in front of me. At 5’11’ tall legroom was good too.

The Verdict

Even though the opera is in English, I couldn’t understand the first several minutes of it because I’m not used to the high operatic singing style. It was a relief to realise that there were subtitles above the stage which mirrored what was being sang and wish I’d realised that earlier!

There were a lot of occasions where I wasn’t sure what was happening and didn’t understand a lot of the symbolism going on. At one point half of the cast stripped naked which probably has something to do with the pleasures of the flesh but I didn’t really get that impression and wasn’t too sure what the significance was. Some of the scenes seemed silly or unnecessary to me such as when some of the women started taking of layer after layer of their panties, or when one woman who had an unrequited love for Castor, lay down on the ground and out of which a male hand appeared and started to masturbate her (simulated). Interesting to watch for the first 5 seconds and then you wonder what the point is.

The ending itself seemed to work out well for both Castor and Pollux. Shame the same can’t be said about the two female leads. Whether that has something to do with gender inequality or is just a coincidence, I don’t know. Maybe most Greek myths are like that, in which case, for that time period, fine.

One of the positives of this experience was that I rather enjoyed the music which is something I’ve never achieved with opera when watching clips of it on TV or hearing it on the Radio. There were a number of musical phrases which were a delight to hear live. The acting seemed over the top but then again I guess that’s what this style of story telling requires and at least it makes it easy to see what each character is feeling. I couldn’t fault the singing however, very enjoyable, including the chorus whom my eyes kept drifting over too.

When the curtain call came, it was heart-warming to see the cast united and taking their final bows, you could feel the atmosphere jump up several notches with the sheer joy that was radiating off of them. It was a shame a lot of people left at the beginning of the applauding because I think they may have missed something slightly special. Just my opinion.

Overall, I think I enjoyed the experience and am glad I didn’t leave at the interval (the thought had crossed my mind). I feel that I may have misjudged opera music in the past and perhaps it improves if you’ve seen it live. I might actually google some of the music because it was surprisingly good to my ears. If I get cheep tickets again I will most certainly be checking out some more Opera for sure.

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