Tippett´s Knotty Garden

REVIEW By Willard Manus

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND -- Scottish Opera recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of composer Michael Tippett's birth with a bold production at Theatre Royal of THE KNOT GARDEN. First presented by the company in 1970, The Knot Garden is a complex--okay, knotty--modern opera dealing with the human condition from a strongly psychiatric point of view. Based loosely on Shakespeare's The Tempest and Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, the opera explores, as Tippett himself has said, "the loves and hates of seven people in modern England."

Central to the drama is Mangus (Peter Savidge), an analyst who dreams that he has the powers of Prospero, the magician in The Tempest, who can set the world's troubles to right. Tippett, who wrote the libretto as well as the music, makes Mangus'--and the audience's--task difficult by putting seven different sets of personal problems into motion. These include the torments of an openly gay, bi-racial, cross-dressing couple; an angry, confused adolescent; and a female "freedom-fighter" who has been tortured and crippled by her oppressors.

Tippett as dramatist was unable to successfully focus and construct his story, which consists of snippets of scenes, flashes of character insight, a fitfully starting and stopping narrative. But as composer Tippett holds the chaos together with his brilliant score, which alternates between evocative lyricism and angular dissonance, with touches of twelve tone, rock, blues, jazz and gospel.

Tippett has also given his singers many challenging and exciting arias to sing. Full of notes, but always going deep and hard into emotion, the arias were, on the whole, handled well by the cast, which also included Jane Irwin, Rachel Nicholls, Andrew Shore, Hilton Marlton, Derrick Parker and Rachel Hynes. The singers were helped by Antony McDonald's vivid direction and by Richard Armstrong's able pit work. In all, Scottish Opera did Tippett proud.

Forthcoming productions include Semele by Handel, Andrea CChenier by Giordano and Fidelio by Beethoven. For precise information about the company's mainstage and small-scale touring attractions, call 0141-248-4567 or visit scottishopera.org.uk