The Hunting Gun review – luminous vocals and intense drama

Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh
This spare UK premiere of Thomas Larcher’s dreamlike new opera featured wonderful conducting by Ryan Wigglesworth and striking ensemble work

One of the artists-in-residence at this year’s Aldeburgh festival is Thomas Larcher. The 55-year-old Austrian features as composer and pianist, and the festival was launched with the UK premiere of his opera, Das Jagdgewehr (The Hunting Gun), which was first performed at the Bregenz festival last summer. With a libretto by Friederike Gösweiner, based on a novella of the same name by Yasushi Inoue, it’s a quietly intense domestic drama set in postwar Japan, played out in a single 100-minute span.

A poet observes a lonely man hunting in a wintry landscape, and writes a poem about his apparent loneliness. Some time later, he receives a letter from someone who identifies himself as the solitary hunter, Josuke Misugi, and who encloses three further letters that explain the reason for his sad isolation. The letters come from his wife, Midori, asking him for a divorce, his lover Saiko (who is Midori’s cousin and best friend) telling him she is going to kill herself because their affair has been discovered, and from Saiko’s daughter, Shoko, who is appalled to learn of the affair.

Giulia Peri, Peter Schöne and Sarah Aristidou in The Hunting Gun by Thomas Larcher.
Giulia Peri, Peter Schöne and Sarah Aristidou in The Hunting Gun by Thomas Larcher. Photograph: Stephen Cummiskey

The opera then revisits the events described in the letters up to Saiko’s suicide, and to Midori’s revelation that she knew of the affair all along. But it is all rather one-paced, and presented with dream-like detachment, as if dredged out of collective memory. That’s despite the expressive beauty of Larcher’s vocal lines, which include some terrifyingly high writing for Shoko, and the striking detail in the ensemble writing, with luminous textures that shatter into icy shards, and contributions from an off-stage chorus woven in and out of them.

The spare production by Karl Markovics is taken over from Bregenz last year, with two of the cast – Giulia Peri as Midori and Sarah Aristidou as Shoko – repeating their roles. They are joined by Iris van Wijnen as Saiko, Peter Schöne as the icy Misugi and Samuel Boden as the unnamed poet; Exaudi supply the off-stage voices. It is all wonderfully secure under Ryan Wigglesworth as conductor, and the production sees the debut of the Knussen Chamber Orchestra, created in memory of the composer who was so closely identified with Aldeburgh and conducted his last concerts there a year ago.

• At Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, on 9 June. The Aldeburgh festival runs until 23 June.

• This article was amended on 11 June 2019. An earlier version mistakenly said that three cast members were repeating their role from the production at last year’s Bregenz festival, and included Peter Schöne as Misugi among them. That should have said two of the cast; Schöne wasn’t in that production. This has been corrected.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
From Adès’ angel to Verdi’s fat knight: what to see as classical and opera venues reopen
Live music is back across the UK; we pick ten events to brighten the coming months

Andrew Clements

14, May, 2021 @3:42 PM

Article image
The top classical, world, folk and jazz of summer 2017
Comedy choirs, desert rock, a trip to the moon and a musical tour of Hull are the standout sounds of the season. Plus Django Bates jazzes up Sgt Pepper

Tim Ashley, Robin Denselow, John Fordham and Imogen Tilden

19, Jun, 2017 @5:00 AM

Article image
Rifles, bears and Buñuel: Thomas Adès on his new never-ending opera
The Exterminating Angel is a surreal classic about the dinner party from hell. Now Thomas Adès has turned Buñuel’s film into an opera stuffed with stars – and live sheep

Tom Service

24, Jul, 2016 @2:00 PM

Article image
Aldeburgh festival opening weekend review – BBCSSO magnificently uncompromising
The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, unusually opening Aldeburgh, were on splendid form, but Emily Howard’s dystopic opera was a huge letdown

Andrew Clements

10, Jun, 2018 @4:00 PM

Article image
Mahler Chamber Orchestra/Kopatchinskaja review – explosive chemistry, with time travel
Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja teamed up with the MCO for two riveting concerts that sought to demystify contemporary music by invoking the past

Rian Evans

24, Jun, 2018 @3:01 PM

Article image
A Midsummer Night's Dream review – steampunk Britten casts a spell
Netia Jones’s techno-sophistry is used to enchanting effect in her imaginative production, with Matthew Rose’s Bottom a particular standout among a fine cast

Rian Evans

12, Jun, 2017 @12:44 PM

Article image
SoundState festival review – buzzing with ideas
From the sonic possibilities of a ping-pong ball to Rebecca Saunders’ terrifying timbres, the five-day new-music festival offered plenty to fascinate and outrage

John Lewis

21, Jan, 2019 @6:13 PM

Article image
Tectonics review – noise, toys and heavenly soundscapes
The BBC SSO’s dreamy drones mingle with plastic-cup players and flocks of bleating kazoos at the festival of experimental sounds

Katie Hawthorne

07, May, 2019 @2:00 PM

Article image
Wysing Polyphonic review – explosions in the sonic inventing shed
Moor Mother and Paul Purgas curate an inspirational gathering where electronic artists, dancers and poets freely test the boundaries of expression

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

02, Sep, 2018 @11:50 AM

Article image
Ariadne ducks the bombs at the Glyndebourne festival

This year's Glyndebourne opener Ariadne auf Naxos is getting a radical relocation, to a Blitz-time hospital. Director Katharina Thoma tells Tom Service how she drew on the history of the Sussex mansion

Tom Service

15, May, 2013 @6:00 PM