Glydebourne's educational programme is celebrating its 21st birthday this year and Photoperative on 17th November was the culmination of two years of collaboration between a group of composers and photographers, led by Ed Hughes and Sophy Rickett.
Based on the physical reality of Glyndebourne Opera House, a number of student photographers were invited to create a series of images which would be supported by new music performed by the indulgently vast forces of the South Downs Youth Orchestra under Malcolm Warnes.
In the first half we experienced six sets of collaboration from the student composers and photographers. Of these the first and last seemed to be the most successful. Anya Krasnikova and Simi Fyles Return wafted us gently about the house and gardens, following a young woman whose presence was as elusive as it was beautiful. The gentle film score aptly matched the sensitivity of the images. Rachel Banham and Alex Dunphy's Illuminations took the stage lighting as its starting point and developed a series of highly effective abstract images, securely supported by the score.
If the first half was not wholly captivating it was perhaps because of the surprising conservatism of both the images and the scoring. None of the music would have been out of place on Classic FM and it was as if Berg, Britten, Boulez and Birtwistle had never existed. While the John Williams' approach to composition has its place one would hope for a little more of a creative edge from our students.
However the second half brought us the professionals' approach in Auditorium and I started to realise just why the students may have been so limited for, in honesty, Auditorium was less interesting than the best of the student work. The score, using pre-recorded and amplified tapes as well as the live orchestra, uses the building well but never moves us. Even less so the visual images which used regular slow repetition without the intensity of minimalism.
The orchestra opened with a rag-bag performance of Rossini's overture to The Barber of Seville but made up for it with fine string tone in Grieg's Death of Ase and In the Hall of the Mountain King.
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