AN opera that opens in a solicitor’s office hardly promises to hit the heights of emotional drama, but Opera North’s new production of The Makropulos Case catches exactly that veneer of trivial anxiety and negotiation which, through three short acts, will peel back to disclose a terrifying dislocation of time, identity and experience.
Janaçek’s opera, first performed in 1926, is based on a Capek play that even the author admitted was all talk and little poetry, but the sharply personalised music transforms it into an intense, claustrophobic nightmare about life without meaning.
An inheritance already disputed for several generations hinges on a name in a document.
But when beautiful yet sinister opera singer Emilia Marty gets involved, names seem to have changed and merged over centuries of entanglement.
Leading an excellent cast, Swedish soprano Ylva Kihlberg captured every nuance of Marty’s curious half-flirtatious detachment, leading finally to the revelation that she has lived for over 300 years, wearing out passion in a confusion of relationships and identities that are now finally slipping away from her.
While her climactic death falls into place with all the relief of the inevitable, the interlude, where an elderly lover, Count Hauk-Sendorf (Nigel Robson), is briefly energised by recognising her, also remains a memorable emotional high-spot.