Dove: Siren Song

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Siren Song
PERFORMER: Brad Cooper, Mattijs van de Woerd, Amaryllis Dieltiens, Mark Omvlee, Marijn Zwitserlood, John Edward Serrano; Siren Ensemble/Henk Guittart


Jonathan Dove’s one acter, first given by Almeida Opera 14 years ago, is a gem of a piece from a composer who rarely puts a foot wrong in the opera house. And it’s all the better thanks to a sharp-eared libretto from the playwright, Nick Dear, who well knows how oddly the human heart can beat. Who but Dove and Dear could have made something so romantic and so tender out of an ordinary able seaman falling for a pretty girl dreamed up in a personal ad by a con artist? Henk Guittart conducting the Siren Ensemble – just 10 players – assembled for this performance, recorded live at the Grachtenfestival last August, relishes the simple subtleties of Dove’s score: from the arresting opening, with an insistent xylophone over dark rising chords, to the echoes of a Gamelan Orchestra and shimmering bell-like sounds, when Davey the sailor lands respectively in Singapore and Bali. Brad Cooper is magnificent as the innocent sailor launched on an emotional flood tide by the promise of his ideal woman. And as the ‘Siren’ whose song seduces him, Amaryllis Dieltiens is both mysterious and alluring, with a winning silvery tone at the top of the voice. But it’s the serpent in this modern day Eden who stays in your head, Mattijs van de Woerd’s Jonathan – utterly plausible as the morally bankrupt con man. How chilling are his final lines as he absolves himself from any responsibility for what has happened. ‘It was what you wanted’, he tells Davey. Christopher Cook