Magazine article Opera Canada

Silver Tassie

Magazine article Opera Canada

Silver Tassie

Article excerpt

The world premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage's new opera, The Silver Tassie, given by English National Opera at the London Coliseum on 16 February, was one of the most exciting musical events of the last decade. Previously, Turnage has written one full-length opera, Greek, and two shorter pieces of music theatre, but The Silver Tassie, with libretto adapted by Amanda Holden from the play by Sean O'Casey, is without doubt his masterpiece. Set during and just after the First World War, the work is in four acts: Home (Dublin in 1915), War (the trenches later the same year), Hospital (Dublin, 1918) and Dance (Dublin, 1919).

The protagonist, Harry Heegan, on leave in Act I, gets a silver cup for winning a football match for his team. Before returning to the Front, he and his friends drink from the tassie. None of the principals appears in War, a surrealistic scene set in a sea of mud and sung by a men's chorus with boys' voices (the stretcher-bearers). In Hospital, Harry is recovering from his wounds. He is in a wheelchair and will never walk again. During Dance, Harry has a fight with Barney, his best friend, who gained a Victoria Cross for saving Harry's life but has now stolen his girlfriend, Jessie. Harry drinks from the silver tassie for the last time, and leaves with Teddy, who was blinded in the war.

Turnage's music, though often dissonant and frequently very loud, is extremely expressive and full of melody, while the composer has taken care to make the vocal lines, and consequently most of the words of Holden's fine libretto, perfectly audible. …

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