Anna Devin and Owen Gilhooly
Owen Gilhooly and Anna Devin
The first of the Royal Opera House’s ‘Faustian Pack’ trilogy of new work is the world premiere of talented young Brit composer Luke Bedford’s ‘Through His Teeth’, a dark and gripping tale of seduction, sex and paranoia, with a libretto by playwright David Harrower.
Only 50 minutes long, the piece left me wanting more of this enthralling musical drama, one that unfolds like an episode of ‘Spooks’ and redeems Bedford for his disappointingly bland first opera, ‘Seven Angels’.
The title might be a bit of a spoiler, but it doesn’t diminish the sense of tension and uncertainty, as burly baritone Owen Gilhooly plays his Mephistophelian role with conviction: a car salesman who masquerades as a spy to conjure an intoxicating world of danger and delusion to seduce then control soprano Anna Devin’s naive sales girl – their frank sexual exchanges cementing her believable descent. The other member of the cast, mezzo Victoria Simmonds, gives a fine dual turn as a TV interviewer and concerned sister.
While set designer Becs Andrews’s back-wall video screen displaying CCTV footage of terrorist action adds to the climate of anxiety, Bijan Sheibani’s direction is rather unimaginative and clunky.
With a composer as original and talented as Bedford, the star of the show is inevitably the score, played lovingly by the ensemble Chroma, veterans of modern chamber opera, under meticulous conductor Sian Edwards. While always sympathetic to the singers, the music’s sonorities are subtle and affecting: sometimes glowing and shimmering, then brooding and troubling – Bedford making much use of quarter tones in the trumpet, violin and clarinet mixed with the anxious sound of bowed waterphone and even trying out the percussive possibilities of the harp. Let’s hope his next opera will be just as daring and a little longer.