explore the piece from a very contemporary Irish context and we considered reflecting that context in the design and presentation. However, on reflection we decided this opera would be best served by presenting it as written, in a 1950s kitchen in Chelsea, London: we had been over-thinking it. Lennox Berkeley has done all the work for us, for the piece has a far more relevant, poignant and uplifting message for its audience today, particularly an Irish audience, and speaks to us most directly through its humour and simplicity. It is in the acceptance of their situation, their resilience and their resourcefulness that we see the humanity and charm of these central characters. It is a reminder that we are part of an ongoing cycle and that things will improve. This opera offers us laughter, hope and joy in the face of hardship.
For my first time directing an opera I hope to tell this quirky little story simply, in a way that highlights the twin passions of Lennox Berkeley and foregrounds his wit, aspiring to achieve Tony Scotland’s description of Berkeley’s music and in doing so, to do justice to the man himself: ‘All the music is polished, thoughtful, and in its quiet sure way, passionate. Much of it is beautiful and some is unquestionably of lasting importance.’
The original production of Lennox Berkeley’s one-act opera A Dinner Engagement, given by the English Opera Group in the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival, on 17 June 1954. The conductor was Vilem Tausky and the director was the dancer and designer William Chappell. (Photo Denis de Marney, reproduced by permission of Lady Berkeley and the Lennox Berkeley Estate)
A Dinner Engagement 55
Programme Book for 2012 Wexford Festival Opera, Wexford, Ireland