Death in Venice, No Fit State and WNO, WMC

March 8, 2024 by

No Fit State and Welsh National Opera
Death in Venice
Wales Millennium Centre



It is highly laudable, and no doubt politically astute in these times of funding decisions, for WNO to share the Wales Millennium Centre stage with No Fit State, the local circus skills company. It probably gave a new audience for these acrobats, gymnasts and aerial skills experts and gave director Olivia Fuchs the medium for a different take on Britten’s dark and frankly dodgy opera.

However, the circus skills proved too much of a dominating aspect of the production, particularly in the first half, when the excellent acting and singing particularly of Roderick Williams in a variety of roles that are manifestations of a dark presence, were overwhelmed.

Also, for us who have seen large amounts of No Fit State and also the excellent Citrus Arts and a plethora of other local work, including two great cabaret-themed shows in Cardiff over the Christmas period, it does get a little familiar.

Impressive athletically and aesthetically, especially Anthony Cezar as Tadzio and Riccardo Saggesse as his mate and judging by the kiss more than that, but the movement vocabulary is repetitive but, as stated, probably fresh and new for many in the audience. Ballet Cymru put together an excellent dance and aerial skills version of Cinderella with Citrus Arts which was all the more noteworthy as the dancers trained in the aerial skills.

In what is largely a dramatic monologue Mark Le Brocq was vocally splendid and sympathetic to the role of Gustav von Aschenbach. It isn’t an easy one but there was plenty of angst and maybe enough self-disgust. The direction could have given more subtly, more a feeling of despair and rhapsody.

Alexander Chance was a suitably golden attired and voiced Apollo. Beautifully voiced in the section of the opera that must have had English ex public school and ivory tower classicists drooling as much as the ripped torso boy. I assume I am referring to the past! Well dodgy but Britten got away with it.  Here the lithe circus skill performer looks faintly ridiculous when dressed as a lad but we could hardly have the very early teenager of the original work. At least in these strange days he was clearly male.

The chorus and other principal roles were used almost balletically, the choreographic movement for the Polish family in particular.

The use of video was effective enough but so much more can now be done and in such a visual Venice-based work could have been achieved.

Leo Hussain navigated the orchestra through Britten’s darkly atmospheric score.

So, a treat for those who like circus skills and are new to this genre as it grasps for artistic relevance and some fine acting and singing, delicious musicianship, indeed. Will I be rushing back? Not really.

I have just found the Visconti film with Mahler’s music on Vimeo.

Until March 9, WMC and touring

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