Opera: Pleasure; in Parenthesis

By Bratby, Richard | The Spectator, May 21, 2016 | Go to article overview

Opera: Pleasure; in Parenthesis


Bratby, Richard, The Spectator


'So you're going to see the gay sex opera?' exclaimed my friend, open-mouthed. People certainly seem to have had some odd preconceptions about Mark Simpson's new chamber opera Pleasure . The distinguished critic of the Daily Telegraph let it be known that he awaited 'with trepidation, something set in the lavatories of a gay nightclub'. And to be fair, the news that Pleasure was to star Lesley Garrett -- last seen in Welsh National Opera's Chorus! ascending to the heavens aboard an enormous pair of lips -- didn't exactly dampen suspicions that we were about to see some sort of camp spectacular: Adès's Powder Her Face meets RuPaul'sDrag Race .

In fact, Pleasure is about as non-camp as any opera can be that features a six-foot man delivering an aria clad only in stiletto heels, make-up and balloons. Leslie Travers's set comprises the neon-lit letters of the show's name. An overflowing wheelie bin and a lavatory basin lurk behind them, plus a box of teabags (Yorkshire Tea, naturally) -- reminders of bleak realities and small comforts. Within this single setting and a running time of little more than an hour, Simpson unfolds a tragedy that had audience members around me in tears. That's a tribute to Simpson's score: a dark, glistening thing that pulses with minimalist rhythms and heaves itself up into grand baroque gestures while letting vocal lines rise naturally and push through the texture. Tim Albery's direction draws affecting and realistic performances from the central couple, Timothy Nelson and Nick Pritchard: a remarkably tender portrayal of love frustrated by class as much as by Steven Page's malevolent drag queen (the main prejudice explored in Pleasure is between generations).

But it's also a tribute to Garrett's astonishing, late-career-defining portrayal of the lavatory attendant Val. She wears faded jeans and a grey cardigan, hair tied aggressively back; and the voice isn't particularly glamorous either. But it's focused, and fierce with emotion: appropriate to the character, and wholly compelling. Val's two careworn monologues open and close the opera, and will probably be the reason why Pleasure enters the repertoire, if it does. If it doesn't, Melanie Challenger's libretto will have something to answer for. Using Important Poets as opera librettists is a habit that British composers seem unable to shake, and the results are usually terrible, at least when an opera aspires to some kind of contemporary realism. 'Their words of fear spread over me like sunlight in a garden': does anyone talk like that in a Leeds nightclub? Or anywhere? It just makes the whole thing seem (the old libel) exotic and irrational. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Opera: Pleasure; in Parenthesis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    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.