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Review: The Drummer Boy of Waterloo, Jubilee Opera, Aldeburgh, November 7 & 8

PUBLISHED: 15:13 09 November 2015 | UPDATED: 15:13 09 November 2015

Scenes from The Drummer Boy of Waterloo by Jubilee Opera

Scenes from The Drummer Boy of Waterloo by Jubilee Opera

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Review: The Drummer Boy of Waterloo, Jubilee Opera, Aldeburgh, November 7 & 8

Scenes from The Drummer Boy of Waterloo by Jubilee OperaScenes from The Drummer Boy of Waterloo by Jubilee Opera

Two hundred years on from the famous battle, music publisher Novello commissioned a new children’s opera, The Drummer Boy of Waterloo. This performance at Aldeburgh Jubilee Hall was the world premiere and was presented by Jubilee Opera, a company specifically dedicated to providing operatic opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds.

The story and lyrics concern Edward Drew, a young lad who finds himself working in a northern mill after the death of his parents. He gradually makes friends, discovers an aptitude for music and joins a regiment as a drummer boy, leaving the mill and his makeshift family behind. In the opera itself, the children at the mill recreate Edward’s story using their imagination and memories of him. The words are engaging and appropriate with the rhythm and drive that often accompanies children’s games. The music is skilfully composed, with a variety of styles and an acute sense of what will work on stage. Under the crisp baton of conductor Lee Reynolds, the small orchestra played with character and accompanied the singers with considerable sensitivity. Director Lucy Bradley and her design team provided credible ‘dark satanic mills’ and the costumes were excellent, giving an authentic look to the performance.

The singers covered a range of ages and they sang and acted with commitment, enthusiasm and understanding of their roles. For young and relatively inexperienced singers there is always something of a challenge in making themselves heard and understood alongside an orchestra, however restrained the playing. Occasionally solos were not easy to hear clearly and one wondered whether some judicious amplification might have helped to project the voices.

Megg Nichol and David Stoll have composed an attractive and highly effective work, one hour long, that deserves to find a secure place in the repertory of children’s opera. Everyone involved in this auspicious world premier is to be warmly congratulated.

Gareth Jones

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