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Promising debut for Bloom Britannia at the De La Warr

Bloom Britannia, the people’s opera bringing together professional and amateur singers and drawing on input from all, had its first, partial, performance at the De La Warr Pavilion on Sunday 28 April. HOT’s music correspondent Brian Hick was there to witness this milestone in the work’s development. Photos by Chris Parker.

After a year’s gestation Bloom Britannia came into the daylight before a live audience on Sunday afternoon. Though still very obviously work-in-progress it is equally clear how rapidly the disparate elements have come together. Having sat in on rehearsals over the last few weeks and been quietly concerned that it might not hang together in performance, there was no hint of this in the smooth flow of the first act which is now fully formed, even if it undergoes some modification or transformation before the final version is staged next year.

Bloom Britannia, De La Warr Pavilion.Where the music had often appeared complex in rehearsal it now seemed to flow with ease, the many melodic snatches linking up to form a more vibrant whole.

This people’s opera spends most of the first act developing the various groups rather than any closely argued narrative line. In fact the first real hint of a dramatic clash comes in the opening of act two (here read as the music has yet to be written) where the Mayor’s wife accused him of having an affair while abroad. It is the first real indication of plot development or of individuals we might want to invest some time in, rather than them simply being part of a larger whole.

Memorable moments

As had emerged from the rehearsals, there are some memorable musical moments. Bee Lee Harling is a fine busker and Anna Orlova a gently effective street sweeper. Some choral passages emerge with strength but as yet there is little sense of the over-arching shape of the narrative to allow us to decide whether this is simply an indulgent moment or something which will be a key to the outcome of the tale.

Director Polly Graham.

Director Polly Graham.

Polly Graham’s direction is very busy, with a great deal of action and movement, though it will need to clarify itself so that we know exactly where our attention needs to focus. The same is true of the text. Many of the soloists come across with impressive clarity, but other passages are lost or incomprehensible. This will no doubt sort itself out in time but, without subtitles, the audience need to be able to follow the text with ease.

Odaline de la Martinez leads her musicians with unobtrusive skill and holds the choral forces together with impressive ease. We are also beginning to get hints of effective orchestration –the birdsong before the sweeper’s solo was delightful.

This was far more than a try-out, and far more than simply work-in-progress. It has the makings of another significant step in terms of the musical life of our community. We can look forward with genuine enthusiasm to October 2020 and the completion of Bloom Britannia.


See also Final rehearsals before first performance of people’s opera


Posted 11:24 Wednesday, May 1, 2019 In: Music & Sound

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