Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Love Hurts THEATRE

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Love Hurts THEATRE

Article excerpt

KATE KELLA WAY succumbs to a visionary adaptation of Janacek

Above, a man is swimming towards us. The audience and the stage are the deeps. His projected image is upside down -- the black surface of the piano below him shines like a pool. He is larger than life and lost. Love is his element. The young man in the Czech composer Leos Janacek's Diary of One Who Vanished has fallen for a gypsy girl. "Everything is up-ended," he complains. The director, Deborah Warner, has taken his awkward, literal words and made them visionary.

Janacek intended that this should be no ordinary song cycle -- he even supplied stage directions. But this is not an easy piece to perform as theatre -- hence, perhaps, this collaboration between the National Theatre and ENO. In a sense, almost nothing happens. For most of 45 minutes, the young man battles with his desire and fear. The gypsy is forbidden fruit of the forest: she has dark skin; she is the unknown. She is everything his parents would not like. But the more he cautions himself against her, the more certain his seduction becomes.

Ian Bostridge, as the young man, is perfectly cast. He has a marvellous intensity; he can convey febrile anguish as easily as breathe. His diction is excellent: he sees to it that not a word of Seamus Heaney's libretto (a new version of poems by OzefKalda) is lost. And his voice scales the cruelly high notes with no sign of strain. In his loose white shirt and braces, he subverts the uniform of the concert performer. This is appropriate to the music, too, which is about boundaries overstepped and convention overturned.

Heaney's often forthright words stand out beautifully against the complicated anguish of the music. And the pianist, Julius Drake, plays with a kind of rapture. Sometimes, when Bostridge turns to the piano, it is as if the music were his inner self and Drake the heart of the piece. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.