Reviews of The Gardeners, 18 June 2019, Conway Hall
Reviews for our premiere of The Gardeners at Conway Hall on 18 June 2019 are now in, with reviews from Classical Source, Opera Today and Seen and Heard International. Below there are selected quotes from the reviews with links to the full ones.
CLassical Source - Peter Reed
his combination of strings and clarinet stays within a medium range, giving Hugill’s accomplished writing for harp an ideal, otherworldly exposure
The best of the singing came from Peter Brathwaite’s powerfully characterised Old Gardener and Flora McIntosh’s vividly portrayed Grandmother, both of them pushing the music’s visual potential.
Expertly conducted by William Vann, drifts of melody, elusive tonality and a consistent moderato pace suggest the layers of dream and reality
The music and Wyld’s libretto complement each other exceptionally well, and her borrowings from Tagore and Housman flow naturally in the text.
the score flourishes in Oliver Wass’s beautiful harp-playing and the chorus’s role
It is, though, quite a feat sustaining this degree of ambiguity until the denouement, which is why it lingers in the memory.
Opera Today - Claire Seymour
Overall, there is a formality, of a ritual and spiritual kind, that this opera observes consistently and with considerable impact. The Angry Young Man’s final words are of reassurance and hope - ‘I will tell them, brothers. They will listen.’
Peter Brathwaite’s Old Gardener was a wonderfully compelling figure … his terrific diction, emotive delivery, focused tone and nuanced phrasing really shook one from one’s complacency.
Julian Debreuil had real presence, using his vocal strength and vivid colour to convey absorbing immediacy.
Flora McIntosh’s Grandmother made a strong mark and used her lower range very emotively and dramatically; her conflict with her grandson was one of the performance’s most dramatically compelling moments.
The instrumental accompaniment - a five-piece ensemble comprising violin, viola, cello, clarinet and harp - was sensitively played, directed by William Vann with scrupulous attention to detail and appreciation of the pace of the musico-dramatic unfolding.
Hugill’s music has a moving serenity and stillness
Seen and heard international - Colin Clarke
Hugill’s part-writing is expert, an aspect particularly clear in the passages for The Dead. How poignantly the small group performed the lines ‘Misjudged for eternity! That is our plight,’
There are a number of instrumental interludes, and it is in these that we realise that the viola is given a hugely magnified role in Hugill’s writing (brilliantly, poignantly played by Joanna Patrick), part of Hugill’s sonic armoury to create a melancholic, elegiac atmosphere.
Conductor William Vann, who specialises in neglected British works and contemporary music, led the forces with sensitivity and eloquent gesture.
As the Old Gardener, Peter Braithwaite was wonderfully strong of voice and of conviction
he (Magid El-Bushra) seemed to warm into the role and possesses a voice of much beauty. Towards the end, his outburst of existential angst (‘I have had enough. What is this life I’m living?’) was his finest moment.
he final scene is given over to The Angry Young Man in dialogue with The Dead, who he can now hear. This was the finest moment for El-Bushra, and arguably Hugill’s, too. A sort of culminating coda that passes on the story on to the next generation (much like the end of Wozzeck, perhaps, with Wozzeck’s son cast into the same world), this was haunting, in every sense, indeed.
A beautiful piece, beautifully performed.