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Edinburgh International Festival: The Makropulos Case – Festival Theatre

Writer: Leos Janacek

Director: Tom Cairns

Music: Richard Farnes

Reviewer: Jonathan Goat


Leoš Janáček’s The Makropulos Case is the ultimate realisation of his modernist project. In this work his previous experimentation with the balance between rhythm and melody becomes ultimately justified, and most importantly, dramatically salient in a way he had never quite achieved before. The tension between the taught, sometimes unnerving rhythmic recitative against the bursts of unquestionably beautiful melody creates an effect that must be seen and heard to be fully understood. Opera North’s rendition of this late masterpiece as part of the Edinburgh International Festival was a joy to behold. Under the baton of Richard Farnes the orchestra issued their trademark quality in a dramatic and involving interpretation.

In the rôle of the mysterious E. M. was the Swedish soprano Ylva Kihlberg. Her performance was a mixture of an involving three dimensional portrayal of the tired pain of old age and and the dramatic force of a true opera performer. She managed to consummately embody Janacek’s project: the bringing together of the often ugly nature of real life and the ideals that we aspire towards. The rest of the cast gave impassioned and musically sensitive performances, but though they sounded strong from the third row there were reports that the male voices struggled to carry over the power of the orchestra to further back in the theatre.

This is a spectacular interpretation of a rare opera gem that Janacek fans will cherish, and although his singular style may be slightly difficult to take for the uninitiated, it is certainly worthwhile giving it a chance. It’s an imposing and rewarding take on the questions of what it means to live, work, and take joy in one’s existence. See it if you can.

Runs until 13th August

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One comment

  1. Agnes Tomorrow

    Is it being filmed? Edinburgh is a little too far away but I’d love to see this!