What are opera singers prepared to go through for their art? I ask after seeing the excellent baritone Andrew Shore submerge himself up to the neck for the third time in the reed-lined pool constructed in the Hampstead Theatre, in the cause of playing the “Sturm und Drang” German poet Jakob Lenz, in the opera of that name by Wolfgang Rihm. The theatre was pretty chilly in any case, so it seemed that Shore was dicing with that curse of opera singers everywhere – a bout of laryngitis.
The short season in Hampstead was part of English National Opera’s change of scene from the vast spaces of the Coliseum, and whatever one thinks of Rihm’s opera which, as director Sam Brown admits, is about a poet who starts off mad and ends up madder, it was visually stunning.
ENO has big plans for playing away from home in 2012-13, when it gives the world premiere of Michel van der Aa’s The Sunken Garden at the Barbican Theatre. Dutch composer, film and stage director van der Aa makes his ENO debut with what he describes as an “occult mystery film opera” using multi-media, 3D film, and libretto by Cloud Atlas novelist David Mitchell. Apparently it explores “hoax and dark truth, in the virtual and the bodily.” You’ll find the full news of ENO’s 2012/13 season on its website www.eno.org , together with a You-tube preview.