Clemency Press Reviews
For Edinburgh International Festival performances of Clemency in 2012
‘James MacMillan’s 50-minute opera Clemency …makes every precious minute count, in the way a short story often packs a bigger punch than a full-blown novel. The sudden ending, though, is viciously curt…Last night’s Scottish premiere by Scottish Opera delivered Clemency as the short, sharp operatic shock it is. Katie Mitchell’s production, revived by director Dan Ayling and set within Alex Eales’ tripartite set design, sits well with the opera’s alluringly updated ambiguity. MacMillan’s music…is pungent, dynamic and exotically coloured, with red-hot shades of Britten and Tippett. Grant Doyle towers vocall as Abraham; Janis Kelly is an endearing Sarah. Christopher Diffey, Adam Green and Eamonn Mulhall are magnificent as the joined-at-the-hop Angels.'
‘The opera clocks in well short of an hour but its pace is unhurried – [James] MacMillan leaves a good few minutes of silence before even sounding a note. He uses a pit band of rich, plangent strings that give beautiful cushioning to the singers, Sarah and Abraham deal in earnest, angst-ridden vocal lines; the angels sing vehement three-part harmony…The cast performs excellently, and the strings of Scottish Opera play with searing intensity. Katie Mitchell’s modern-day production tells the story with poise and clarity. A striking three-part set (designed by Alex Eales) underlines the Trinity symbology but wisely doesn’t overdo it.’
'Janis Kelly is particularly strong as the weary Sarah, a study in forbearance, her voice betraying her years of toil, and Grant Doyle conveys Abraham’s inner conflicts vividly. MacMillan’s score, using an ensemble of strings alone, is hugely powerful, exploring the piece’s themes in music of a sometimes brutal directness – pounding rhythms, icy, suspenseful chords and brief moments of glowing consonance. The pace is fittingly slow, allowing plenty of time for reflection on the work’s themes, but the production’s lucid simplicity and directness only add to its astonishing power.’
**** Fest Magazine
For ROH2 performances of Clemency 2011
'MacMillan's new one-act libretto is subtly haunting and quietly powerful...Grant Doyle and Janis Kelly as Abraham and Sarah and Eamonn Mulhall and Adam Green as the mysterious visitors make up an ideal cast...This is an opera which leaves a lasting effect, and I want to hear it again soon.'
'Curiously seductive...Katie Mitchell's modern-dress production contains the action in a framed three-part set that resembles a triptych, and ingeniously offers multiple perspectives on the same series of rooms.'
'In James MacMillan's music, every note counts. And never more so than in Clemency, the Scottish composer's brand-new chamber opera, which packs questions powerful, emotional, philosophical and religious into just 45 minutes. MacMillan has created a terrifically intense focused and inspired musical work.'