The Day After

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow

Keith Bruce, Four stars

THE young performers at the Alexander Gibson Opera School and conductor Philip White would deserve major credit for demonstrating the spirit of “the show must go on” for opening their production of Jonathan Dove’s recent chamber opera as scheduled, regardless of cancelled rehearsals, on a weekend when Scotland’s national music companies gave in to the weather.

More the point, the post-apocalyptic tale, written by Dove with April de Angelis, who also provided the libretto to his hugely successful Flight, provides a showcase for some very fine singing indeed, particularly in the choral passages at its opening and closing. Around 40 young people are onstage, and the ensemble sound is of the highest standard. Elsewhere the score might be redolent of Philip Glass and Kurt Weill, but in those I also heard distinct echoes of the writing of James MacMillan.

The singers are skilfully accompanied by a twelve-piece orchestra, with some very precise harp and wind playing early on and exceptionally crisp brass later.

This production is a revival of one created in English National Opera’s rehearsal space last year, with original director Jamie Manton and his design team of Camilla Clarke and Thomas Mannings on board. Set on a slag heap where the characters are scavenging for food, they then tell Ovid’s story of Phaeton’s chariot ride to thwart the world-ending intent of his father, the sun-god Phoebus. Irish tenor David Lynn and Brazilian bass Pedro Ometto impress in those roles (as they both did recently in Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis), as do Julia Daramy-Williams, Fiona Joice, and especially Emma Mockett as the other soloists.

The work does lose pace, however, in the sections without the chorus, and for all that it is only an hour and quarter long, it would probably be better for being even tighter in its compositional structure. But as an example of the possibilities of the Conservatoire’s opera studio space, and of the skill of the current student cohort, it should not be missed, with further performances on Wednesday and Friday.