The Moderate Soprano

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The Moderate Soprano

Post by lennygoran » Fri Jun 01, 2018 7:43 pm

This British play sounds interesting. Regards, Len

The Moderate Soprano review – David Hare's Glyndebourne play hits the high notes
4 / 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars.

This is a rich, funny, touching play about the opera house and the extraordinary marriage of its co-founders, John Christie and Audrey Mildmay
Michael Billington

Roger Allam as the co-founder of Glyndebourne Opera, John Christie, in The Moderate Soprano by David Hare at the Duke Of Yorks, London.
A benign autocrat … Roger Allam as John Christie, co-founder of Glyndebourne Opera, in The Moderate Soprano at the Duke of Yorks, London. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian

It has taken two and a half years for David Hare’s play about the foundation of Glyndebourne Opera in 1934 to make the short journey from Hampstead theatre to the West End. It has been worth the wait, for this is a deeply moving play about the power of married love, the importance of great art and the dependence of what seems a quintessentially English institution on European émigré talent.

It will come as no great news to opera lovers that Glyndebourne’s prewar reputation was founded on the work of three refugees from Nazi Germany: conductor Fritz Busch, director Carl Ebert and intendant Rudolf Bing. Even if the play takes time to fill in their personal backgrounds, Hare extracts rich comedy from the conflict between their professional expertise and the bull-headed obduracy of John Christie, who first conceived the idea of an opera house on the Sussex Downs. Christie emerges as a benign autocrat who, ironically, gives houseroom to three men fleeing dictatorship. Told that his theatre is a jewel box rather than an epic stage suited to his beloved Wagner, Christie has to be persuaded into presenting Mozart, of whom he says: “He may be great but is he any good?”

This is, however, less a play about colliding artistic visions than about an extraordinary marriage. Christie’s wife, Audrey Mildmay, was a singer, a moderate soprano in multiple senses: it’s not just that her voice was gentle in timbre and better suited to intimate than large houses, but that she was a calming influence in the battles between her husband and the migrant trio. Gradually you realise the play is both a tribute to Audrey and an improbable love story. Nothing is more touching than the spectacle of the uxorious Christie, when his wife is raging against the dying of the light in 1952, seeking to console her by itemising the Mozart operas – many of which she appeared in – of the fabled prewar seasons.

Hare has written an unusual play for this day and age: one that celebrates both love and a supposedly elitist art form. One of the high points of Roger Allam’s superb performance as Christie comes when he defends the practical difficulties, as well as the high costs, of getting to Glyndebourne on the grounds of the artistic enrichment offered. To some, the experience is simply “snobs on the lawn”, but when Christie says “we’re talking about the sublime” Allam’s voice vibrates with passion. But Allam also gives us other sides of the contradictory Christie, such as the patrician arrogance that led him to sack Ebert with peremptory abruptness.

Nancy Carroll is every bit as impressive as Audrey. She shows the tension between her role as gracious Sussex chatelaine and understandably ambitious artist, and perfectly captures the ravaged intensity of Audrey’s final years. Paul Jesson repeats his performance as Busch, still burned by the memory of momentarily wavering when offered Bayreuth by the Nazis. Anthony Calf brings out Ebert’s implacable aestheticism and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd evokes Bing’s Austrian charm. Jeremy Herrin’s direction, meanwhile, does justice to an enlightening play that, like much of Hare’s work, is full of an alert romanticism. ... high-notes

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Re: The Moderate Soprano

Post by Lance » Fri Jun 01, 2018 10:36 pm

This is precisely my "cup o' tea." You have me totally interested. I wonder if it will be filmed for DVD, or perhaps even a movie made of this great story. Maybe it is even already out???
Lance G. Hill

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]


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Re: The Moderate Soprano

Post by John F » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:59 am

I'd love to see this, and in earlier years when I was traveling to London every few years, this would have been the occasion for a trip. But my last time there, in 2011, getting around had become too difficult, and it hasn't gotten better since then, so I guess I'll have to satisfy myself with the playscript, which has been published.
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Re: The Moderate Soprano

Post by maestrob » Sat Jun 02, 2018 10:43 am

Well, hopefully there will be a telecast on PBS or a DVD that I can watch. This is indeed "right up my alley," so let's all keep an eye out for any media releases.

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