- Hugo Cole
Opera in three acts by Iain Hamilton to his own libretto, after Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy ; London, Coliseum, 7 May 1981.
Hamilton’s opera centres on the relationship between Anna (soprano), her husband Karenin (baritone) and her lover Vronsky (tenor). Act 1 depicts the growth of Anna’s passion for Vronsky and its effects on family and friends. Act 2 explores further the relationship between Karenin and Anna, and ends, after Anna has borne Vronsky’s child, with the reconciliation of husband and lover brought about by Anna. Act 3 begins after Anna and Vronsky have returned from Italy and ends with Anna’s suicide.
Hamilton makes use of a lyrical, romantic, tonally based idiom and adopts many of opera’s traditional forms and devices. Conflicts among the emotions of the characters are expressed in ensembles such as the trio in Act 2, in which Anna’s husband, her brother Stiva (baritone), and her lover give vent to their feelings. Tonalities are used to define character: throughout the opera, Anna and Vronsky’s underlying incompatibility is stressed by the tonal clash between Anna’s D and Vronsky’s E♭. As in many operas of the last century, a chain of ballroom dances provides the background for dramatic action. Big ensemble and chorus scenes at the station, in the ballroom and at the racecourse presuppose a large-scale and spectacular production, such as the opera received at the Coliseum in ...