Eleven years after its composition, and with the disappointment of two cancelled proposed premieres since, David Blake’s opera Scoring a Century at last made it to the stage last weekend, and the excitement in the air was tangible.
As this year’s major production from Birmingham Conservatoire, the occasion drew packed houses to a buzzing Crescent Theatre, and stimulated oodles of adrenaline in the large, enthusiastic, energised student company.
Outstanding among them were the hard-working and awesomely talented Matthew Cooper and Lucie Louvrier as Mr and Mrs Jedermann, the song-and-dance couple who by some quirk remain ageless and live through the entire 20th century, evolving through historical turning-points.
There was also a brilliantly over-the-top portrayal by Henrik Lagercrantz of Berthold, the composer of mini-operas which appear from time to time within the structure, and which give Blake the opportunity to display his gift for pastiching various 20th-century composers.
Elsewhere, Blake’s musical approach is eclectic, bringing in cabaret and musical theatre, as well as “proper” opera.
And the music was done to a turn, helped by the expert student orchestra under the experienced conducting of Lionel Friend.
Unfortunately the large proportion of spoken dialogue was sometimes unclear in delivery, though well paced. Acting from the entire cast under the direction of Keith Warner (who also wrote the libretto, full of knowing historical references) was constantly lively, complemented by Michael Barry’s witty choreography.
The set design by Jeremy Daker, and costumes by Nicky Shaw were equally witty, and the idea of having the scenery trucks zooming on over a real railway was a constant delight.
But the stumbling-block is the work itself.
Though the historical time-line seems to offer an obvious way forward, in fact quite soon the concept becomes laboured, and by the second half I found myself counting on my fingers how many epoch-making events were there still left to go.