Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest

Reviewed on Thu 02 Jul, 2015

This wickedly knowing adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s much-loved play certainly deserves all the attention it receives.

Since its first outing in London’s Barbican Hall in 2012, Gerald Barry’s deliciously ripe and riotous re-telling of The Importance of Being Earnest has been seen in Los Angeles, France, Ireland and for a second time in London. Few modern operas enjoy such exposure so quickly. This wickedly knowing adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s much-loved play certainly deserves all the attention it receives. From the deliciously drunken piano version of Auld Lang Syne that opens the opera, via the 40 smashed dinner plates punctuating it, to the eerie but effervescent extended chord and snapping crescendo of the conclusion, there is much to enjoy in Barry’s witty, waspish and occasionally wacky score. Taken from the Barbican concert, vocal performances bristle with combustible adrenaline, Barbara Hannigan’s Cecily a fiery, feisty delight. Thomas Adès draws laser-sharp performances from a Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at the top of their form. Illuminating notes by Paul Griffiths and libretto add to the considerable pleasure.
–Michael Quinn