MAVRA & PIERROT LUNAIRE | London, Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre

Pierrot Lunaire (1912), Schoenberg’s forty-minute sprechstimme monologue for solo soprano, makes a great impression in this striking double bill staged at the intimate Linbury Theatre studio space, with a cast and creative team made up of members of the Royal Opera House’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme: the talent on show here is astounding.

Alexandra Lowe is electrifying as Pierrot, perfectly capturing the fool’s “lunaire” obsession and self-torturing. Musically, it’s a tour-de-force, a gripping study in how to eke out the musicality of Schoenberg’s angular, dissonant lines, while also treating the whole monologue as a spur-of-the moment improvisation.

The double bill opens with Stravinsky’s virtually unknown, twenty-five minute comic farce Mavra (1922). The stilted reality of this rose-wallpapered house, slowly filling up with a massive pile of lime green trash bags, absolutely brings Stravinsky’s oom-pah score to life, and strangely complements the poetic horror of the second piece.

To hear artists of such immense talent in such an intimate venue, as opposed to the vast grandeur of the main house, is a particular privilege. Similarly, the orchestral playing is phenomenal; where the main house needs twenty or sixty players, here we have the luxury of hearing an ensemble of just six of the Britten Sinfonia’s finest, up close and personal. With any luck, we’ll get a revival before too long.

Playing 12 – 22 May 2022 at the Royal Opera House.

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