Award-winning playwright David Hare returns to the West End with The Moderate Soprano
Following a sold-out run at Hampstead Theatre, David Hare’s new play has now transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.
This is the story of an intense love affair and the unrelenting search for artistic excellence in the face of searing scrutiny, sacrifice and the impending Second World War.
Watch Hare himself talk about the show below; then read on to discover everything you need to know about The Moderate Soprano.
What is The Moderate Soprano about?
The Moderate Soprano tells the story at the heart of the foundation of Glyndebourne, the stunning East Sussex opera house which was founded by John Christie and his soprano wife, Audrey Mildmay, in 1934.
Focusing on the two great passions in Christie’s life – opera and Mildmay – The Moderate Soprano paints a vivid picture of what many first saw as a monumental folly in the South Downs, and explores the birth of Glyndebourne amidst stiff manhattans, rolling lawns and the impending shadow of World War II.
The joy in watching the play is that, with the beauty of hindsight, we know that Glyndebourne became revered the wold over, so it’s a striking piece of theatre that unveils the scale of the enterprise that Christie undertakes.
Who stars in The Moderate Soprano?
Olivier Award winners Roger Allam and Nancy Carroll reprise the roles of John Christie and soprano Audrey Mildmay direct from the sold-out run in Hampstead.
Allam is best known for playing Inspector Javert in the original London cast of Les Misérables. More recently he has starred as merchant-prince Illyrio Mopatis in hit TV series Game of Thrones. He has been nominated for an Olivier Award four times, and most recent won the award for Best Actor in 2011 for his role as Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 at the National Theatre.
Carroll is best known for her extensive work on the stage, particularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2011, she appeared alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Adrian Scarborough in Thea Sharrock’s revival of Terence Rattigan’s After the Dance, for which she won the Olivier Award for Best Actress.
What can audiences expect?
In the years since the Moderate Soprano first premiered at Hampstead (it’s taken almost three for the show to transfer), it has been reworked and strengthened – meaning that even those who saw it the first time around will find new things to delight them in the West End.
The new set – by designer Bob Crowley – is one such improvement, evoking sentiments of the rolling Sussex fields that backdrop Glyndebourne’s exquisite setting.
Fans of opera – who surely think they know plenty about Glyndebourne’s history already – are likely to find things they didn’t understand after all; tantalising secrets about the quintessentially English institution, which unfold through the tapestry of Hare’s rich script and the sparkling performances at the heart of the piece.
It’s the play’s themes though – true love, marriage and the importance of great art – that are most striking here. They collide with surprising force, meaning Hare’s play is so much more than a look at high society snobbery and instead becomes an stunning exploration of an extraordinary marriage; ultimately the play becomes something of a love letter to Audrey Mildmay – which, of course, in many ways, is exactly how Christie saw Glyndebourne.
What are the critics saying?
“Rich, funny, touching” – The Guardian
“Roger Allam is masterly” – The Observer
“Nancy Carroll is pitch perfect” – The Independent
“Jeremy Herrin’s direction is elegant and fluid and Bob Crowley’s beautifully composed designs are magnificent” – Daily Telegraph
What else do I need to know?
The Moderate Soprano is now open at the Duke of York’s Theatre, booking until 30 June.
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.co.uk