I am not generally a fan of "modern music", I generally like my music lyrical and my operas well aria-ed (not a word but heh!) - however, when I saw that WNO were bringing The Merchant of Venice to Bristol on its UK Premiere tour I decided to give it a go.
At first, I was sinking in my seat unsure how I was going to last the hours (3.5 I think) of this production, and then the production was suddenly over! I was fully engrossed throughout, even through the rather odd epilogue.
I found that if I concentrated on the music, or the "tune", then I was all at sea, but if I just watched, and let it flow, then it was a deeply engaging piece with a powerful effect.
We all know the story and even some of the words as many are lifted directly from the play - in fact the "Quality of Mercy" is perhaps one bit that didn't quite work for me, but that was just a niggle. There is comedy too in the second act, especially from the Prince of Aragin (Juliusz Kubiak) and some strange stage settings that I just chose to shrug and accept.
The lighting seemed to be all awry with faces often in darkness and the proscenium arch well lit - I guess that is just the danger of touring productions, especially opera where they have three shows to do in a week here. One directorial bit I just didn't get was Bassanio's choosing the lead casket ... with the other two caskets left wide open and empty on stage of course he's going to choose the only one left! Oh, and "give me your gloves" only works if the people are wearing gloves ... you see, I was paying attention! Oh and if you are going to have stage-wide footlights then having an actor lying on the floor is going to get them masked from the stalls .. just a thought.
Martin Wölfel's counter-tenor voice was too soft leaving us straining to hear him over the orchestra and missing some of his lines sung with other performers. Lester Lynch's Shylock was amazing and Sarah Castle (Portia) and Verena Gunz (Nerissa) were delightful.
A surprising and enjoyable piece of theatre.