Stephen Oliver/Stravinsky double bill at Buxton Festival

–The performances of Stephen Oliver’s Exposition of a Picture and Stravinsky’s Renard should have been an interesting part of the Buxton Festival’s newly established Young Artists programme, but it was not. Those mounting 20th century operatic works the libretto of which is important should realise that, since audiences are now used to surtitles, they no longer tolerate performances when they cannot hear the words. The young singers failed to get most of the English text across, either because the accompaniment was too loud, or because they did not articulate sufficiently clearly, or because of poor acoustics, or – most likely – for a combination of these reasons. The problem was particularly acute for Exposition of a Picture which was fundamentally a conversation piece. Perhaps this, and the Stravinsky, could have benefited from a more imaginative, perhaps stylised presentation, to bring out the drama by visual means. As it was, this was musical theatre without drama.