Narcissus and Echo
Music by Anja Djordjevic
The Lowry, 5 October 2011
You will be as enchanted by this powerful opera as Narcissus was by his own sweet reflection.
David Sheppard takes the ‘too sexy for my shirt’ role, pulling it off with aplomb, while Lizzie Marshall plays the nymph who can only repeat what she has been told. A curse, courtesy of a malicious Goddess. She loves and looks on helplessly. Another two nymphs are hacks or paparazzi and there’s a nod to tabloid culture, celebrity as a mask eating into the face (to quote the old Updike line), in the libretto.
The score by Anja Djordjevic is what makes the opera really special though, the melodies being absolutely gorgeous and suited to the mood of gradual self-absorption. There’s a small piece of percussion at the end, the stamp of a bare foot, but otherwise it is strings all the way. On one reading, it is a happy ending: Narcissus finds his one true love and pines away (for what else can compare?), while the other woman (Echo) doesn’t get a look in. So romantic.
As with many Greek myths, it is the back stories that are most intriguing. What caused Cephisus to ravish and rape Narcissus when he was still a boy? Why did Narcissus send a sword to Ameinius, if not to provoke him towards suicide? These questions are not addressed, but perhaps there’s space for a prequel.