We have all had the opportunity to know and love Dickens’ wonderful A Christmas Carol in its many shapes and forms, whether that be the book, an old black and white film, a full colour Muppets’ version, or even a theatrical musical. Tonight I witnessed the Opera, writes Michael Holland.
This performance by Trinity Laban Opera was the Thea Musgrave version; a version that is widely acclaimed, and produced as part of their Venus Blazing initiative that has over half of the work produced here this year written by female composers. It was evident that Musgrave’s dark music was to highlight the bleakness that those times were for the working class, and Trinity Laban went with that, projecting images of bare brick walls onto the urchin carol singers, as if confining them to the workhouse or factory, themes that thread themselves throughout Dickens’ oeuvre. The same projection worked, too, in allowing the spirits of Christmas to seemingly walk through walls to get to Ebenezer Scrooge.
A large orchestra pretty much took front and centre stage, there for all to see – bar the percussion section off to the side drumming up a storm – and there for the singers to do battle with in order to get their voices to us – and a sterling job they did of it as well, especially the women who were really on top form. For me, I sometimes struggled with hearing the words being sung, and it was only through knowing the story so well that I could keep up with what was going on.
Even so, at the end of the night I knew I’d seen something quite special. As well as the students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, there were top professionals involved in this, which must be a great motivator for the generation of stars coming through. I am sure they all picked up their game for this production as everyone was so tuned in to everyone else, which was a joy to watch and be part of. And I’m sure a lot of that is due to Jennifer Hamilton’s direction, which made it all seem so smooth and seamless.
This is something for the purists and the curious. I was curious and was glad I went.
A Christmas Carol is on at Laban Centre, Creekside, Deptford, SE8 Times: 15th December 2.30pm & 7.30pm. Admission: £15 (£12). Phone: 0208 305 4444