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You can’t sing with your mouth full: our critics’ verdict on Powder Her Face

Elizabeth Frayer and Shawn E Milnes, our New York operagoers, have strayed off the well-beaten Met path to attend an opera about fellatio (we won’t translate that). Oral or choral, they were – like the heroine – sometimes lost for words. They clashed, they tiffed, they differed. They posted divergent opinions. He, for some reason, liked it. She, oh read on here….


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  1. Francis Schwartz says:

    I find the entire project rather limp.

  2. The description and photographs make it sound over-produced. In a wonderful production some years ago at the Long Beach Opera in California, there was no nudity and the judge certainly was not being serviced. For his aria, the libretto of which was taken (I think I’m right about this) from court transcripts, he was being wheeled around while at the top of a high ladder (as in high court). The production was bare bones, at the service of the score, hilarious and, when the final aria arrived, compassionate and moving. For me, it’s a great piece but, nonetheless, well said, Francis Schwartz.

  3. Graf Nugent says:

    Having seen – and loved – Written On Skin, I’d have been intrigued to see what George Benjamin would have made of this subject matter.

  4. Les Handy says:

    There used to be a great DVD of the first production of this opera (conducted by the composer) which was put out on Christmas Day prime time British television. I can’t remember which year.

  5. Timon Wapenaar says:

    Typical early 21st century opera reviews. Production, direction, production, direction, lighting, costumes, props, lighting, sets, and a little acting. But did anyone actually review the music?

    • That’s the entire point. When you have dozens of nude actors roaming the stage the message is loud and clear: “the music sucks, SO LOOK AT THIS.”

  6. I was the repetiteur for the premiere Australian performance which Thomas Ades conducted here. It was a great performance – well thought out staging. I enjoyed driving Mr Ades around in my 1965 Humber Super Snipe. I think it was in 1997 – a most interesting time!

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