Review: Digital Chamber Opera – The World’s Wife @ WMC

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Digital Chamber Opera – The World’s Wife
Western Studio, Wales Millennium Centre
Sunday 15th October 2017

Carol Ann Duffy is the undisputed poet of the people. School children and students are blessed to study her marvellous prose. It remains refreshing that a living writer should get the opportunity to have future generations read their work, whilst continuing to add to their craft.

As it would happen, Duffy has become good friend with young composer Tom Green. In a pre-show talk, they both expressed admiration for each others work. To hear Duffy read only three poems was enough to make the night, but we did also have the opera to see. The World’s Wife is a sizzling collection of poems regarding the women who were beside some of the great men in history, mythology, religion and fiction. The trails, tribulations, observations and discoveries are what bring these ladies to life. Duffy’s wit, the cutting jabs and the well manoeuvred wordplay all establish her as a great poet. She is not Poet Laurette for anything, don’t you know…

Complementing the verse is Green’s chamber opera score written for the always vibrant Mavron Quartet. What may appear as slight with a score for just four string players is counterbalanced by loop pedals creating a minimalist feel. Appearing to be under the control of soprano Amanda Forbes the loops replay moments in her singing and the spiky notes the quarter have. It’s a score which balances the bold with the beautiful. Keeping in the vein of the solo soprano opera of Poulenc, Schoenberg and Feldman, The World’s Wife never fails to impress. In short, Green creates a spritely and satisfying sound world that should please everyone.

Whilst the words are star quality, the performance by Forbes is also noteworthy. Tackling such characters as Pilot’s Wife, Little Red Riding Hood (with deeply rooted sexuality), Frau Freud and even Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife) she embodies each with rich voices and vibrant connectivity. At times hilarious and at others deeply heartfelt, the tones took time to blend, but when they did it took off and had us gripped. Forbes gave us vocal fireworks, filled with trills, a cabaret number and ended with an exquisitely intimate melody as the loops harmonised along the way.

The show itself could have been a tad shorter (the billed 70 mins was a good hour and a half for this premier night), it mostly maintained a dramatic bite. Whilst director, composer and crew were mostly male, perhaps in keeping with the themes of a the show a female composer should have been foreseeable? Saying that, it is very much Green’s vehicle, which for the night Duffy would ride. Green defends his ground by saying all the music within is inspired by female composers, the most famous being that of Clara Schumann, wife of Robert. With much talk of appropriation in the arts now, we must all tread carefully to the ventures which may appear attractive but may not be the path for us to go down.

This pleasant piece has much going for it. We hope to see more opera from Green and new books from Duffy in the near future.

Feisty & piercing.

Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑

The World’s Wife continues on tour.

Photo Credit: Kirsten McTernan


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