Review: Madame X

“Accessible and tuneful ... well worth a visit”

Todmorden News on Thursday 21st August 2014, by Rob Barnett
21st August, 2014, Todmorden Hippodrome

Opera given strong voice - and sting in tail

Todmorden-based Tim Benjamin must have been seized by opera.

After all, it is hardly an easy road to performances. Despite that he has written seven since 1996. The latest is Madame X which premieres at 7.30pm tonight (Thursday, August 21), at Todmorden's treasured Hippodrome. Last year his suffragette opera Emily was heard on the same stage, writes Rob Barnett.

Madame X features a young immigrant couple: a brilliant artist Masetto and his muse Zerlina. These two are in the clutches of various unappealing characters from the world of snobbish art appreciation including those who lionise artists and want to add the latest star to their collection.

The couple's hapless dependency leads them into some very dark places but revenge is in the air.

The composer tells us that he was inspired by the Italian operas of Handel and by Jacobean revenge drama. The intriguing plot specifics are topical.

Along the way there are barbed references to attitudes to immigration as well as lampooning the super-rich "patrons" whether old money aristocracy or nouveau riche upstarts.

The staging is inventive and simple while the orchestra is compact. The young singers have assertive voices apart from the vulnerable couple who seem for the most part wanly introspective and are blown about by the winds of circumstance.

The strongest voices are allotted to the circling predators. The music is accessible and tuneful though with defined arias.

It's a score with continuous Mozartean contours rather than grand set-pieces. Well worth a visit and there's a sting in the tail.

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