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Albert Camus/Hans-Ulrich Treichel/Amanda Holden Libretto

Ryan Wigglesworth Conductor
Benedict Andrews
Ralph Myers
Set Designer

Peter Coleman-Wright Caligula
& Yvonne Howard Christopher Ainslie Pavlo Hunka Carolyn Dobbin Brian Galliford Julia Sporsen

With a simple neutral set suggesting a political/sports arena, and without a traceof video (which had begun to seem obligatory at ENO), the British premiere of Detlef Glanert's Caligula is the most satisfying of recent ENO productions.

We had looked forward to Caligula because BBC R3 had featured this resourceful and individual composer (Music for Violin & Orchestra and Symphony No 3) and we were not disappointed. Alongside the unsavoury doings on stage (see R a political dinner party at the stadium at which a member of the tyrant's entourage is about to be poisoned...) the beauties of Glanert's dramatic orchestral score under Ryan Wigglesworth held our attention unswervingly.

To embody the extremities of the mental state of a dictator of ancient Rome and of our own times, Detlev Glanert "eliminated violas and limited other sounds from the orchestra's middle register to concentrate on highs and lows" [George Loomis, NYT]. The music demands to be heard again; there is a CD [Oehms Classics OC 93].

On stage for most of two hours, Peter Coleman-Wright was brilliant throughout as the sad, mad, moon-struck tyrant who invites us to join him in his savagery - "we're all in it together" !

Of the fine cast I would mention particularly Yvonne Howard as Caligula's wife, loving unto death, his slave Helicon (counter-tenor Christopher Ainslie) and Zoe Hunn as the already dead Drusilla, beautiful in her nudity, without a hint of prurience. But really there were no serious weaknesses on stage, in the orchestra pit or from the technical team.

There must be an ENO DVD of this fine production.

"This ENO Caligula is much better than the production in Frankfurt", writes a blogger who has seen both !

Peter Grahame Woolf