Michael Tanner – Opera Magazine

This was quite an event.  The Saffron Opera Group, now in its second year, put on a concert performance of Stravinsky’s biggest work, with an excellent all-round cast, a decent local chorus and orchestra, and Michael Thorne conducting (……).  His inflexible beat mainly suits Stravinsky well; this must still be a difficult score to hold together, with its typical relentless syncopations.  The Rake was taken by Adam Tunnicliffe, and quite brilliantly; he is surely the most gifted and interesting young opera singer now before the public, with an ever-growing voice and a winning stage presence.  Charles Johnston’s Nick Shadow was no less powerful, the ideal mix of genial avuncularity and the sinister, and with another magnificent voice.  Rebecca Bottone’s Anne Trulove, though beautifully sung, could have wilted less.  I wasn’t convinced that so fragile a vessel would be so persistent in searching out her wayward lover.  With Hilary Summers we enter the realm of international celebrity, and it is only a pity that Stravinsky gave Baba the Turk such impoverished music to sing: she made the most of it, but that only emphasises the lack of inspiration or conviction that is a feature of so large a proportion of this work.  Auden is in large part to blame – the use of surtitles, though invaluable, only showed how arch and uncommunicative many of his conceits are.  Stravinsky matched them for the most part all too faithfully, producing something like a self-parody of dreadful length – until the penultimate scene in the graveyard, introduced by a string quartet, on this occasion not a well-tuned one – when we become vividly aware of what he hasn’t been giving us up to then.  Tunnicliffe and Johnston were electrifying in this scene, and the intensity continued through the moving Bedlam scene, both singers bringing tears to the eyes, not something one expects from this composer.  Then the infuriatingly glib Epilogue.  This was worthy of a much larger audience than it had, especially when you think of how opera-deprived East Anglia is.  Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to the SOG becoming over-ambitious.