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Birtwistle: The Corridor reviews from premiere tour

(September 2009)

Birtwistle: The Corridor reviews from premiere tour

The world premiere of Harrison Birtwistle’s new music theatre work, The Corridor, launched the new Britten Studio at the Aldeburgh Festival in June, as part of a 75th birthday focus on his music. The 45-minute scena, focusing on the turning point in Birtwistle’s beloved Orpheus myth, saw the composer collaborating once more with poet David Harsent. After performances in Aldeburgh the production by Peter Gill, with singers Elizabeth Atherton and Mark Padmore and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth, travelled to the Southbank Centre in London and the Bregenz Festival.

The Corridor is for soprano, tenor and six instruments, and deals with a single moment, when Orpheus, leading Eurydice out of the underworld, turns around to look at her, and so loses her forever. Birtwistle and Harsent explode the moment of that glance into a series of arias that crystallise the characters’ situations and the separateness of their emotional worlds - his, accompanied by just a harp, are self-absorbed and self-pitying, while hers are more objective, matter-of fact, and often delivered as speech over the other instruments.”
The Guardian

“At this split-second of cataclysm, all shudders to horrified silence. The music of Eurydice grows slower and slower like an unwinding clock as she retreats ever deeper into the “corridor” of Hell, further than ever from the lamenting Orpheus. As a half-speaking narrator, she puts questions to the players who answer in anguished, rhapsodic music, as lyrical as anything Birtwistle has attempted.”
The Observer

“…a movingly lyrical lament for loss of love.”
Sunday Times

“The twist which Harrison Birtwistle gives to the old myth is astonishing. In The Corridor the noble saviour appears as a high-handed artist who wants to have his wife back, like a stolen possession, and who, until now, has evidently given no thought to her dreams and yearnings. And as in all tragic operas – and in real life – the realisation in The Corridor comes too late. As soon as Orpheus really looks at his wife for the first time and utters her name, he can’t help but recognise that he lost her long ago… Whilst the woman slowly disappears, the artist Orpheus takes refuge in  beautiful, sorrowful music.”
Der Tagesspiegel

The Corridor was paired in a double bill with Birtwistle’s arrangements of Dowland songs and viol music exploring similar themes, as described by the Daily Telegraph: “Semper Dowland, Semper Dolens is a song cycle in which six of the 16th-century lutenist John Dowland’s drooping meditations on the sorrows of love have been arranged for harp accompaniment, interspersed with spare, glassy interludes eerily evocative of ghostly pavanes and fantasias, scored for string quintet. Mark Padmore sang with immaculate legato, squeezing the bitter-sweetness out of every note.”

> Further information on Work: The Corridor

Photo: Aldeburgh Festival/Malcolm Watson

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