Review: War Requiem

I love going to the ENO. It’s not just the gorgeous architecture or its fabulous location.  It’s because of the sense of inclusion I feel as soon as I step into the building. The feeling, that every type of person comes here, and every person is made welcome.

This production of “War Requiem” is of particular interest to the LGBTQ community. Composed in 1962 by Benjamin Britten, (with the tenor part originally written for his lover Peter Pears.) Britten uses excerpts from Wilfred Owen’s poetry, to epitomize the waste and futility of war. Both Britten and Owen were homosexual and living at a time when it was illegal to be so. This particular production’s designer, Wolfgang Tillman, is a gay activist as well as a Turner prizewinner.

War Requiem is a choral extravaganza, epic and thrilling in equal measure. Its score is well served by an enormous chorus of adults and children. The body of the chorus is onstage for much of the production.

The sure performances of soloists David Butt Philip and Roderick Williams draw the poignancy and sorrow from the text. But it was soprano Emma Bell, who stole the show, with her beauty, vocal dexterity and theatrical presence.

Tillman’s set comprises of photographs projected onto three large panels onstage. Apart from the early archive pictures of injured soldiers, I found most of the images irrelevant, their static quality distracting from, rather than enhancing, the emotional intensity of the music and libretto.

Britten’s consummate score combined with Owen’s emotionally harrowing text, clearly depicts the suffering and horror that our gallant soldiers, many of them just boys, endured for their country. Particularly so, for the homosexuals in their ranks who were criminalized because of their sexuality

This beautifully orchestrated production, reminds us that War is not a solution…it’s a tragedy.  Love is the solution. Including the Love that once, dare not speak its name.

E.N.O. until Dec 7th

 

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