TITLE: Opera North Project: Autumn
VENUE: Yorkshire Sculpture Park
By: John Avison
OPERA North Projects has theme-packaged all four seasons, Vivaldi-style, and last weekend it was Autumn’s turn to get the poetry, prose and music treatment from a clever and enthusiastic chamber sextet.
The scene couldn’t have been more theatrically set.
Already traumatised by Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa’s magical lit figures, chiming steel columns of poetry, alabaster heads and resonant gongs, we made our way along a balmy twilight route to Bretton Park Chapel, our path marked with candle lanterns.
The orange flames of a bonfire were projected on the chapel wall, and leaves had been scattered artistically in the entrance hall.
The chapel was candle-lit, the only electric light being supplied to the music stands.
The Project’s musical director, cellist and vocal soloist Matthew Sharpe was interlocutor and introduced a varied programme of music, poetry and prose loosely based on autumn, a time for changes.
The words and music magically combined to give us images of love and wine, elves and pumpkins, of years and lives sliding towards the darkness of winter.
The musicians were experts, blending their talents apparently effortlessly in pieces as varied as Piazzolla’s Autumn, Weill’s September Song, Tchaikovsky’s November Troika, Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night and Ruckert’s Ich Bin Der Welt set to Mahler’s haunting, gloomy music.
David le Page and Nicola Sweeney (violins), Lisanne Melchior and Oliver Wilson (violas) and Matthew and Calre O’Donnell (cellos) were the stars, ably helped by Sculpture Park staff as poetry readers.
In an autumnal touch completely unrehearsed – and probably spotted by only a handful of the audience – a spider unconcernedly spun a glittering web between Lisanne’s music stand and her light as she played.
The Winter concert is on January 21, 2012, again at Bretton Hall Chapel. I don’t want to miss it.