Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us


Nico Muhly Two Boys

librettist Craig Lucas
director Bartlett Sher
projections and animation [L] Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer and Peter Stenhouse

Heather Shipp, Susan Bickley, Bartlett Sher, Nicky Spence, Nico Muhly, Craig Lucas, Two Boys, Mary Bevan, Jonathan McGovern, Joseph Beesley,
ENO Orchestra/Rumon Gamba

ENO at The Coliseum, London, 24 June 2011

Edward Seckerson of The Guardian, who awards 5 stars to this production as against all time lows of one or two from some dismissive colleagues, does not declare an interest - in that a major part of ENO's programme book is devoted to his interview with the composer and the director...

Seckerson is a major participant in "English National Opera’s marketing machine, which has gone into overdrive for the world premiere of Nico Muhly and Craig Lucas’s opera Two Boys and taken every opportunity to exploit new technology in getting the word out, with a promotional video that has gone viral, garnering nearly a million hits on Youtube." [Simon Thomas].

But, I note in fairness, if you click on Thomas' devastating one star put down of this show, you will see below it a selection of audience members' 4 to 5 stars reviews; it was evident, during an opera that had me bewildered and unengaged, that the Coliseum audience (many of them with cheap seats) was relishing it, as evidenced by the ovations for all concerned at the end.

From Thomas I have learnt that it is not my daily interraction with the Internet which, unexpectedly, distanced me from this new, highly derivative opera (sub-Glass/Adams etc), but that I have not watched enough TV; "- - a police mystery less compelling than an average episode of The Bill - - investigating authority figure [Susan Bickley, L], troubled teenager, sexually-provocative girlfriend [below R] and confused, churchgoing parents - to bring this creaky old psychological thriller up-to-date, the dysfunctional youth spends too much time on his laptop." He links it too to Peter Shaffer’s Equus, which I dimly remember from many years ago... I found myself quite unable to identify with Susan Bickley's quest as the Detective.

Nicky Spence, a mature opera tenor, looked rather old for his role as a corrupt adolescent who masturbates for our delectation on his video-cam...

Joseph Beesley, a boy soprano of uncommon purity of tone and phrasing (a notable Harry at the Royal Academy of Music's Albert Herring 2010) created the creepy central character of the tale, and for me was the most noteworthy member of the cast. Singing with complete assurance he reminded me of my years supporting the career of one of his predecessors from the '60s (Simon Woolf, Harry at Guildhall School of Music in the late '60s).

Unnamed in the opera listing, Beesley apparently has a number of on-line alter egos; likewise, the identities of the real boys in the 2003 chatroom murder plot that inspired Muhly's opera are protected by law... " the ethereal boy soprano Joseph Beesley almost stole the show as the real-life Jake." [The Classical Beat].

The top image is typical of the many whole stage views of images of supposed "internet traffic"; as hard to decipher as is this picture. Of the many thousands of words that this USA/GB promotion has generated, Ivan Hewett is worth reading: "Muhly doesn’t even pretend to be respectful of widely held opinion, if he finds it stupid."

I found myself mostly out of touch with it all, so I'll leave it there...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Other recommended reviews at whatsonstage and musicomh


images: Richard Hubert Smith