Buxton International Festival . 2019
THE STAGE ★★★★
Steadily garnering a reputation as one of the most talented of the youngest generation of opera directors, Jamie Manton collaborates with designer Justin Nardella in a staging whose blend of realism and dreamlike fantasy – Tchaikovsky’s heroine Tatyana is often accompanied by the silent companion of herself as a child – exposes the emotional heart of the piece. The imagery is mesmerising.
THE ARTSDESK ★★★★
Certainly, when a director comes along who applies both heart and mind to Tchaikovsky and Pushkin’s poetic world, the result can be something that quietly burns itself onto your memory for a very long time to come. I suspect that’ll be the case with Jamie Manton’s new staging for the 2019 Buxton Festival.
In short Manton has created a poetic and beautiful exploration of memory and loss, reality and illusion – and within it, framed a faithful, profoundly moving telling of the story. Manton’s whole production is proof that a staging of Eugene Onegin can be simultaneously traditional and startlingly new; wholly faithful, and yet capable of asking questions of the utmost complexity and sophistication. See it at least twice, if you can.
Never have I been so moved by this opera.
OPERA WIRE ★★★★
Manton’s strong direction produces emotionally charged reading.
English National Opera / Alexandra Palace Theatre . 2019
CLASSICAL SOURCE ★★★★
Manton’s handling of the various layers of an often maddeningly surreal staging is assured, although I still don’t get Paul’s best friend Babe the blue ox being represented by a sequence of ever-larger fridges – American consumerism and disposability? – nor the point of singers shut inside them, nor an elaborate meat-packing scene – but they go with the flow of Manton’s effervescent circling of the American Dream in all its boundless optimism. He is as impressive in his direction of the chorus of lumberjacks, farmers and farming women – who sing a lot of the time from the auditorium and are truly magnificent – as he is with specific roles.
Fortunately, this production is so full of life, love, energy and sheer melodic joy that it makes it easy to shut all of that out and enjoy the ride.
I have no idea what Paul Bunyan really is. But hats off to ENO for turning something quite so bizarre into such a riotously enjoyable evening.
SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL
A magnificent, hugely entertaining evening. The present production, directed with immense imagination by James Manton, comes to the large spaces of ‘Ally Pally’s’ theatre after its first run at Wilton’s Music Hall.
English National Opera / Wilton’s Music Hall . 2018
In this splendid (and sold-out) production of a once abandoned and now resurrected work, in a once abandoned and now resurrected venue, its strength endures.
MAIL ON SUNDAY ★★★★★
An exhilarating experience.
CULTURE WHISPER ★★★★
Anyone who doubts the merits of Benjamin Britten’s early operetta Paul Bunyan should seek out English National Opera’s first-ever production of this curio, currently running at Wilton’s Music Hall. The sheer invention, energy and commitment steaming off the stage in this colourful riot of a show goes a long way to quell any misgivings – and I do mean show, for there are delicious helpings of Broadway in this tasty, pastiche score.
Jamie Manton directs with a keen eye for comedy and crowd mania, and designers Camilla Clarke and Laura Haley dress the whole thing with wit and style.
THE GUARDIAN ★★★★
ENO has turned it into something genuinely worthwhile.
WHATS ON STAGE ★★★★
And wild it certainly is in Jamie Manton’s inventive and resourceful production. The director takes his lead from Auden's text – much of it self-conscious verbiage for which the poet subsequently apologised – and serves up a riot of anachronistic ideas, for the most part well realised.
SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL
The whole art of the Music Hall was artifice. But an artifice which was both self-indulgent and believed in itself. All this is wonderfully alive in the present staging by Jamie Manton.