Powder Her Face - Linbury Studio, 26 April 2010
Thomas Adès's brilliant, precocious debut opera will I suspect be judged more kindly by posterity than by Barry Millington in the Evening Standard. Its originality lies not so much in its elements but in their juxtaposition. Hoary pastiche-jazz, faux-Stravinsky and blatant Strauss quotes take on a new life sandwiched between the rumbling brass monsters and careering strings which form both frame and critique of the plunder.
Carlos Wagner's superb production, revived from 2008, echoes this Surrealistic reappraisal of the familiar - quite literally, in the case of a Daliesque jewelled lobster. A sweeping staircase dominates the stage. There's more Dali in the gigantic, furniture-sized cosmetics strewn across it. They emphasise the beauty, the vanity and the superficiality of the opera's subject, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, who passed into the annals of history as protagonist in the sensational, scandalous 'headless man' divorce case in 1963.