'Powder Her Face' reviews and synopsis

'… one of the most striking new operas I have seen in years… a composer of masterful technique. From the tango of the overture to the tango of the close, one is on the edge of one’s seat trying to catch as much as possible of the prolific, fast-altering, vividly etched and instrumentally outrageous detail of a score which is boiling with life.'
The Sunday Times (Paul Driver), 9 July 1995

'… dazzlingly precocious… a staggeringly brilliant addition to the ranks of contemporary music theatre… (Adès) boasts few contemporary rivals on either side of the Atlantic.'
San Francisco Examiner (Allan Ulrich), April 1997

'Adès’ inventive panache is irresistible, and his orchestration magical.'
The Daily Telegraph (Rupert Christiansen), 16 June 1999

'…Events career by so rapidly, and the music changes tack so effortlessly that the whole score seems miraculously coherent… Adès can make a single gesture - a slapped pizzicato bass, a piano cluster - speak as eloquently as the most complex harmonic progression… instrumental writing of a power and imagination that we haven’t heard anywhere, let alone in an opera, for a long time.'
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 3 July 1995

'… Powder Her Face is the rare modern opera that has you walking out with melodies on your lips … It is no longer fair to call him a prodigy; he has become, at the age of twenty-six, a prime mover in English music. His work has caused a nearly total capitulation of critical and popular opinion … Adès has the extrovert panache of a great opera composer.'
The New Yorker (Alex Ross), 18 August 1997

'… the piece is terrific … it’s been acclaimed in Adès’ native England as one of the best operas of the 90s. Its US stage premiere showed why.'
USA Today (David Patrick Stearns), 31 July 1997

' … unfolds with a vitality and assurance that proclaim a born master.'
The Atlantic Monthly (Austin Baer), June 1997

‘…the tone of Firbankian camp is sly and subtle and elegantly wedded to Adès’s hugely colourful and virtuosically inventive score, with its brilliant Jazz Age pastiche and homages to Berg and Stravinsky …’
 
The Daily Telegraph (Rupert Christiansen)

Synopsis
1990: The Duchess surprises a Maid and an Electrician in the act of ridiculing her in her suite on the top floor of a West End hotel.  Owing to their negligence, Her Grace’s coat is soiled.  As she changes, all three express unanimous admiration for Her Grace’s clothes and scent, and varying opinions about her Grace’s circumstances.  An entrance ensues. 1934: The Duke is expected at a large country house.  Former ‘Debutante of the Year’ Mrs Freeling awaits him eagerly as her divorce is discussed by a Confidante and a Lounge Lizard.  His Grace’s recent affairs are a topic.
A song is given and His Grace arrives.  1936: Fashionable interest in Mrs Freeling’s wedding to His Grace in no way affected by her status as a famous divorcee, a magnificent reception is thrown.  Behind the scenes, a thoughtful Waitress prepares elaborate dishes.  1953: On one of her frequent visits to the capital, Her Grace relaxes in the room of one of London’s foremost hotels.  She telephones for Room Service and gives the Waiter the friendly welcome which has earned her such popularity among the staff.  1953: Meanwhile, His Grace entertains a friend at home after returning from a party.  Her Grace is discussed and information revealed.  1955: As the historic divorce trial nears its close and the Judge’s concluding remarks are awaited, Rubberneckers discuss the sensational aspects by which they have been attracted.  A judgement is given and Her Grace reacts.  1970: Her Grace grants an interview at her lovely home.  She offers insights from her experience of health, beauty, entertaining, millinery and English society.  1990: Her Grace receives two visits from the Manager of the prestigious London hotel which has been her home for over a decade.  They finalise details of her forthcoming departure and in the interim, she reflects.  She vacates the suite, whereupon it is made ready for the next occupant.

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