Opera North, The Makropulos Affair.

Conquering death in a cinematic 50’s presentation of Janacek’s ‘The Makropulos Affair’, performed by Opera North, at the Theatre Royal on 22nd November.

‘Nothing in life is worth it’, sighs Emilia Marty, the heroin of Leos Janacek’s penultimate opera ‘Vek Makropulos’ (The Makropulos Affair/Case/Document, delete as preferred). Indeed living for over three hundred years can do funny things to a person.


Based on the ‘hilarious’ comedic play of the same name by Capek  (who interestingly died on Christmas day and invented the word robot), the action is set around a rather convoluted and protracted legal case. It would be unfair to burden you with the intricacies of the legal proceedings but, needless to say, the other characters become suspicious when she demonstrates a highly detailed knowledge of the case despite having no involvement in it. Or so we think.


Ylva Kihlberg stars as the seductive but distant Femme Fatale Emilia, a tour de force soprano part that was technically superb. The production was sung in English, translated from the original Czech libretto. The supporting cast was equally assured in both thespian and musical ends, and the neo-communist setting was a delightful touch, giving the men some rather drab (though realistic) attire.

Orchestra and singers were superb despite an acoustic that offered no assistance, demonstrating virtuosity of the highest order (a particularly tough trombone solo springs to mind). The production lives or dies on the performance of the lead and Kihlberg was as seductive as you could dream of and the comedic elements were well paced throughout. At times however she was slightly unconvincing when attempting to appear distant.


All said it is a pleasure to view a rarely performed Janacek masterpiece on one’s doorstep.