Despite a certain amount of whooping from on high, the applause at the end of â€œThe Last Hotelâ€ seemed oddly restrained rather than wildly rapturous. This was not because it had bored us, or repelled us, but rather that the ideas expressed so hauntingly were complex and universal – we needed time to reflect, to absorb, and to consider what we had just seen.
This new opera, an all Irish collaboration between writer Enda Walsh and composer DonnachaÂ Dennehy brings together a leading theatre producer, Landmark Productions, and Wide Open Opera, founded in Ireland in 2012. It has as its storyline an assisted suicide to be carried out in a strange abandoned hotel, with nothing between the ground and fourth floor except memories. That I was confused as to which woman was there to die – in spite of a clear programme resume – seems intentional. An English couple, the wife silent, distraught, and physically sick from crossing the sea to the Irish hotel, are met by a bright, confident attractive PR who has previously worked for the husband.
As the story unfolds the two women seem to merge in their unhappiness and longing – neither feel truly loved or appreciated, both feel neglected and alone. The husband (Robin Adams) has a pragmatic approach to happiness. He appreciates how important it is to have dreams, and his dream is to have money enough for a kitchen extension, maybe even build a new house, a new village. That the neglected wife finds solace in the hotel caretaker, and the husband responds by knocking his teeth out seems to say a lot about the lack of rapport between the sexes, the differences and disappointments in human relationships.
There is almost a fable-like, allegorical feel to this opera – Walshâ€™s sparse pared back libretto is well served by Dennehyâ€™s music, at times jarring and discordant, at times glorious and lyrical. Great universal themes of death, memories, impermanence and longing are wrapped up in the trivia and banalities of everyday life. The complexities in the music will keep serious music buffs happy for years, analysing the many subtleties, tones and styles to be found. Beautifully played by Dennehyâ€™s Crash Ensemble, exquisitely sung by Claudia Boyle, Katherine Manley and Robin Adams, I feel this opera will stand the test of years and be around for many, many performances to come.
Lyceum Theatre until August 12th