Review: Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! at the Barbican

14:51 07 November 2012

Oliver Knussen

Oliver Knussen's opera based on Maurice Sendak's book 'Where The Wild Things Are!' at Barbican Hall, London. Photo by Mark Allan.

Archant

Oliver Knussen’s operatic adaptations of the late Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s books are a delight

Part of the November Weekender – a family-oriented explosion of free artistic events in the building’s public spaces – the Barbican celebrates the work of leading British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen with a double bill of his two fantasy operas, Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop!

In these faithful stagings of two classic children’s books (written by the late Maurice Sendak), Knussen teams an innate sense of drama and psychological insight with designer-director Netia Jones’s specially commissioned multi-media stagings and the musical might of the Britten Sinfonia. The result is a delightfully thrilling journey into the imagination of Maurice Sendak that leaves one longing to be a child again.

Wild Things sees Max (soprano Claire Booth) voyage to a far off island in a paper boat, after his mother sends him to bed without dinner. Sendak’s illustrated Wild Things are projected onto a vast white backdrop behind the orchestra and percussively-voiced off-stage, leaving Max alone as a tiny silhouetted figure against a back-drop of rambunctiousness. Sendak’s creatures are so vivid they barely need to be animated in order to take on a life of their own, but thankfully the multi-media treatment stays true to the pen and ink line drawings and watching these creatures cavort wildly across the backdrop is a pure joy.

In Higglety Pigglety Pop! Jennie the dog (Lucy Schaufer in full Sealyham Terrier outfit) embarks on a quest to find ‘experience’ and answer the conundrum: ‘There must be more to life than having everything.’

En route, she meets a colourful array of characters (despite the black and white staging) including a sartorial cat, a baby-eating lion and a pig selling sandwiches. Here, we see Sendak asking some big questions of his young readers, some of which may have been lost due to the decision to only surtitle Wild Things.

There is a reason why, as adults, we still pick up these storybooks to read to our children decades after their conception; this isn’t just music for or about children. These operas teach us about the power of dreams and encourage us to confront our deepest fears – be they the perennial gremlins under the bed or the troubles that haunt us adults. A delight – and surprisingly thought-provoking.

* Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! at the Barbican, Silk Street, EC2, on Saturday November 3.

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest Stories from SNAP.PA

Coronation Street star Katie McGlynn has revealed Sinead Tinker worries her injuries will put too much pressure on boyfriend Chesney Brown.

Read more

Brenda Blethyn has said she likes getting in touch with her audience of the future through Henry Hugglemonster.

Read more

New Girl star Jake Johnson admitted that his new film Digging For Fire is based on his own life.

Read more

Promoted content

Valentine's Day Afternoon Tea

London Hilton on Park Lane is inviting couples to celebrate this Valentines Day over a deliciously romantic afternoon tea at Podium Restaurant and Bar. Taking inspiration from the highly popular Confessions of a Chocoholic Afternoon Tea, London Hilton on Park Lane presents the ultimate romantic afternoon out with its Valentine’s Day Afternoon Tea.

Established in 1987, Tucci is one of the North's premier stores for branded clothing, footwear and accessories.

Save up to 70% on designer brands for Men and Women, including G-Star, Diesel, French Connection, Firetrap and many more….our sale is now on.

Nothing says

iWOOT has a great selection of quirky Valentine’s Day gifts for every possible person and partner.

Top Stories

Quizzes

How well do you really know the Tube map?

Everybody thinks they know the Tube map but do you really?

Read more
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

It’s time to test your knowledge on the two London institutions: the Underground, and the boozer.

Read more
Adrian Chiles is no longer ITV's main man... so why not test your knowledge of some of his (and others') greatest gaffes? (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

With news of presenter Adrian Chiles’ sacking by ITV, it’s a good time to remember some of the most memorable punditry blunders.

Read more