A network of guilt, accusations and the secrets and lies of our old friends… TULLY POTTER reviews Innocence at the Royal Opera House
Innocence (Royal Opera House) ****
The first night of Kaija Saariaho’s new opera was extra moved by the news of the latest mass shooting of young people in the United States.
The Innocence plot, a web of guilt, accusations, and the secrets and lies of our old friends, centers on a school shooting ten years ago that killed ten children and a teacher.
As the action unravels, details are uncovered until we see that no one, be it perpetrator, victim or survivor, was truly ‘innocent’.
Waitress Tereza (Jenny Carlstedt), who lost her daughter Marketa in the massacre, is asked at the last minute to help with a wedding – and realizes the family involved are the gunman’s parents and brother.
Marketa (Vilma Jaa) appears as a ghost throughout the action and telling points are made through her – I wouldn’t want to spoil any surprises. Other students, still alive, contribute to the tapestry, especially Iris (Julie Hega).
Simon Stone’s production is top-notch and makes good use of Chloe Lamford’s spinning set
This is the kind of teamwork Wagner wanted, but less tedious
Orchestral Saariaho’s music is effective, often haunting, but there is too much text.
Although planned from the start by the Finnish creative team – including writers Sofi Oksanen and Aleksi Barriere – the language violence is disturbing. It is unpleasant to have certain voices amplified.
Saariaho writes some sympathetic vocal lines but others are ungrateful to sing, making them appear ungrateful to the listener. Lapses in the spoken word seem like escapes, more suited to a play.
Simon Stone’s production is top-notch and makes good use of Chloe Lamford’s revolving set, which can be anything from a wedding suite to a kitchen to a classroom to a male student restroom.
Carlstedt, Jaa and Hega are joined by other great singers including Markus Nykanen (the groom), Sandrine Piau and Christopher Purves (his parents), Lilian Farahani (the bride), Lucy Shelton (the teacher) and Timo Riihonen (the priest) .
Susanna Malkki gives the members of the orchestra room to work their magic and the chorus – unseen until their curtain call – creates much of the atmosphere.
This is the kind of teamwork Wagner wanted, but less tedious.