The Crackle

  • Music
  • Contemporary opera
Critics' choice
1/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

2/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

3/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

4/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

5/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

6/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

7/7
© Stephen Cummiskey

'The Crackle'

Bring your mobile phone, they said, download an app called Chirp and take part. The intention is presumably to allow us to interact by hosting the occasional R2D2-like burble; the reality is that the audience is divided into smug people who can’t believe that they won’t be parted from their phones for the 70 long and unbroken minutes of this show, and the others who frustratedly stab at their mobiles while nothing happens (I am in the latter camp).

And so the final offering in the Faustian Pack trio is unveiled, Matthew Herbert’s ‘The Crackle’. The composer is an imaginative sound artist and creative director of the BBC’s New Radiophonic Workshop, so you might expect something pretty special. Wrong. An astonishingly tedious show, with a vacuous score, irrelevant musique concrète relays, an adolescent libretto and a plot as clunky as an episode of ‘Rentaghost’.

The story, for what it’s worth, concerns a music teacher who hears that his school radio station is to be closed. While making his final broadcasts he hears the voice of Mephistopheles over the airwaves, who points him to a machine that makes music and will help him raise the money needed to keep going. Meanwhile, one concerned pupil’s mum challenges his safe thinking.

It’s such a waste of talent. The Chroma ensemble under Tim Murray have little to do, except its pianist, who has to play most of this sub-minimalist score which is overlaid with floaty instruments such as the vibraphone to create a hypnotic soup. Soprano Stephanie Marshall makes a pleasing noise, but she and tenor Andrew Dickinson must know that they are in a total turkey. Even the marvellous Bryn Terfel is involved, albeit on tape, as the voice of Mephistopheles. It’s like you’re trapped in a kids’ music theatre workshop, as 40-odd uniformed schoolchildren outstay their welcome as a dancing, acting, amateur choir, adding to the misery.

Presumably they wrote the libretto, too. One banal cliché and platitude follows another as this ‘opera’ make some embarrassingly expositional cultural/political points with lines such as ‘You’ve got soul music without the music’ and ‘The world needs art more than war’. Unless, of course, the whole thing is an elaborate advert for Chirp. Which reminds me: must check and see if my app has downloaded yet.

LiveReviews|0
2 people listening