Owen Wingrave at the Edinburgh Festival
Catching Owen Wingrave at the Edinburgh Festival meant that I had now seen all of Britten’s operas. Superbly conducted by Mark Wigglesorth and in an austere but strong production by Neil Bartlett, it was certainly performed with conviction. The singers were uniformly good, especially those with long experience in works of this kind – Susan Bullock, Janis Kelly and Jonathan Summers – but can someone explain why it was necessary to use an amplification system? Nor did the piece make the impact that one would have expected, given its powerful anti-militarist theme. The problem did not lie in the music. Britten’s score, diverse in style and colouring, is always interesting. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Mifanwy Piper’s libretto. Too intense, too obvious, too monochrome, even in relation to the principal characters, it failed to provide a rounded view of human beings and hence forfeited our engagement with them and their predicament.