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Opera: The Wreckers by Ethel Smyth, Glyndebourne Festival 2022

17 June 2022

Glyn Paflin relishes a seldom staged English opera in Sussex

richard hubert smith

THE plot of Dame Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers does no more for Chapel values in Cornwall than Britten’s Peter Grimes does for apprenticeships in Suffolk. Glyndebourne’s compelling production brings out parallels: the outsider, the offstage service, the mob, the ever present rolling sea — but, above all, under Robin Ticciati’s baton, with the Chorus and the London Philharmonic on superb form, the dramatic pace and force.

At the heart of it are Cornish lovers, heroically sung by Karis Tucker and Rodrigo Porras Garulo; so Wagner cannot be far away. Nor are other Continentals. Smyth was an unashamedly European Late Romantic: a dash of folk singing is far from the ideals of Vaughan Williams; and Henry Brewster’s libretto was here in Smyth’s preferred French. The heroine sings “Je ne regrette rien”; but the lovers’ exaltation is more moral than erotic; its antithesis is her husband, the grim pastor Pasko (Philip Horst), who undergirds the wreckers’ inverted mor­ality. The production runs until 24 June, but it is to be filmed and streamed, for release on Glyndebourne Encore in August.


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