I’d never heard of this opera by Janacek. But it’s great. And ENO’s version is brilliant. There are four performances remaining, so go buy tickets.
It begins like a Dickens novel – a lawsuit that’s been going on for a hundred years. There are sheets of paper littering the set, the lawyer chides his client for attempting to get the case wound up: all very Bleak House.
But then into the law firm bowls this fabulous, beautiful opera singer and everything changes..
It’s a fun plot about the downsides of eternal youth, but the central performance from Amanda Roocroft (the opera singer) is just mesmorising. The men on the stage all fall in love with her, but she manipulates the audience as much as those in the drama. She struts arounds, flirts outrageously, makes cutting witticisms and sings brilliantly, to a sprightly and moving score. Roocroft appears to absolutely revel in the role and is as ridiculously enchanting as her character is supposed to be. She’s supported very well by an excellent cast and a small male chorus.
At times it’s like being at the theatre: I’ve never seen an opera singer pull off an act so well as this one. Gradually her secret is revealed, the case closed, as her beauty is stripped away…just top stuff.