The Makropulos Affair: The Welsh National Opera
Updated: May 29
Review: The Makropulos Affair, The Welsh National Opera, New Theatre, Oxford.
[Disclosure: I received free tickets, free drinks, as well as a free programme for the purposes of thisreview.]
The Welsh National Opera has brought us yet another remarkable opera in its autumn touring season with Janáčeck’s extraordinary The Makropulos Affair. The Makropulos Affair is a genuinely gripping opera, based on a thrilling play by Czech science fiction writer Karel Čapek, written in the 1920s and set in that era. It is part science fiction, part feminist treatise and a little bit of Dickens’ Bleak House.
The story follows Emilia Marty, one of the world’s greatest opera singers and a famous beauty – there is something irresistibly alluring and slightly repugnant about her. As the story unfolds, we learn that Emilia isn’t 30 years old, she is in fact 300 years old – having been force fed an immortality potion when she was 16 – as a test subject.
Emilia, played by the utterly extraordinary Spanish soprano Ángeles Blancas Gulin, brings the most incredible musical and acting ability to this role. Gulin is somehow erotic, beautiful, abhorrent, pitiless, vulnerable and funny – all while bringing Janáčeck’s music to life with the highest level of musicianship. Her voice is molten gold. Gulin’s final aria, in which she contemplates the effects of 300 years of life was one of the great moments of opera.
This production of The Makropulos Affair was something special. The orchestral sound was lovingly and expertly shaped by conductor, and musical director of the WNO, Tomás Hanus. Every performance was utterly believable, as well as being musically inspired – a credit to both the performers and the director, Olivia Fuchs.
I am sure that the WNO will revive this production of The Makropulous Affair, and when they do, I would wholeheartedly recommend going.
If you are lucky enough to live in Oxford, you can still go and see the WNO’s fabulous production of La Bohème – which is on tonight. Tickets are still available. You can read my review (as well as buy tickets) here.
If you enjoyed reading this opera review, you might enjoy reading my other opera reviews, which you can find here.