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Work of the Week – Mark-Anthony Turnage: The Silver Tassie

On 10 November 2018, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera The Silver Tassie (1997-1999) in concert  as part of their In Remembrance World War I series at the Barbican in London. Ryan Wigglesworth will conduct, with an excellent cast including Sally Matthews, Sir John Tomlinson, Claire Booth, Marcus Farnsworth, Louise Alder, Susan Bickley, and Ashley Riches as Harry, the lead character.

Based on Sean O’Casey’s 1928 play on the futility of war, The Silver Tassie is set in Dublin during World War I. Its title, referring to a footballing trophy, comes from a Scottish song text by Robert Burns “Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine, an’ fill it in a silver tassie; that I may drink before I go, a service to my bonnie lassie”. The opera was co-commissioned by English National Opera whilst Turnage was their Composer in Association, and Dallas Opera.

Mark-Anthony Turnage – The Silver Tassie: the tragedy of war

The story of The Silver Tassie centres around Harry Heagen – a handsome soldier on leave from the Great War, and a renowned footballer. Triumphant after winning the football cup ‘The Silver Tassie’ for his team, Harry leaves his family and girlfriend Jessie for the front. There he is rescued from death by his best friend Barney, but loses the use of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair. Harry then discovers Jessie has deserted him for Barney, and the final act brings a poignant and moving conclusion, as he sets off to face an uncertain future.

It is not only words that come across vividly, but feelings too. The sheer theatricality of the music is dazzling. Turnage knows precisely how to hold the audience’s interest and sympathy, timing each scene consummately and providing haunting “tag” tunes and a series of grand operatic gestures. – Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

Further upcoming performances for Turnage include the staging of his explosive first opera Greek (1986-1988) at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music from 5-9 December 2018.


© Foto: Keith Saunders