Angels in America
A Barbican / BBC Symphony Orchestra Performance
Part of the Barbican’s “Present Voices” Series
Barbican Centre, London (2010)

Photo: Ava Pine (photo: Mark Allan)

David Gately's dynamic semi-staging made a strong argument for a full production of Angels.

— The Independent (London)

Triumph for revival of Angels in America

It was billed as a “concert staging”, and, more than any such rendering I can think of, it justified the word “staging”. Costumes, props, modest sets and sometimes dramatic lighting were used, and the orchestra, although bulking large, was somehow kept out of the way of the fluent action that David Gately devised.

— The Sunday Times (London)

The concert staging by David Gately, given as part of the Barbican Centre's “Great Performers” season, was wholly attuned to the music – representing each scene concretely but with a heightening sense of involvement that drew the audience through the evolving drama. Equally successful was the utilising of the singers as scene-changers, a Brechtian ruse which should never have fallen out of favour, while the lighting had a luminosity that clothed the action with an unreality in keeping with the malaise of those who have lost their way.

— Classical Source (London)

Peter Eötvös’s opera attracted a large audience for its UK premiere, and deservedly so. This was a beautifully prepared, brilliantly executed rendition of a work that speaks a contemporary language – the F-word much in evidence – without patronising its listeners musically.

David Gately’s fluent “concert staging” made us feel we were in the theatre – quite an achievement on the Barbican platform.

— Financial Times (London)

I enjoyed this concert staging (directed by David Gately) because it showed how the simple resources of a concert staging can have a huge impact, done as thoughtfully as this. The lighting effects were superb, evoking huge vistas in the imagination. I “saw” the stars in the heavens and the lights of a night time city.

— Opera Today (London)

The production was trailered as a concert performance, but with so much space cleared for action at the front of the stage, lighting effects used judiciously throughout, subtle directorial input (by David Gately) conveying the dramatic situations extremely well, and all singers wearing full costume and performing numerous roles, it felt close enough to a full production as to be dramatically satisfying.

— Musical Criticism (London)

The concert staging by David Gately was brilliantly resourceful, with dazzling angelic visitations.

— London Evening Standard

This is high-class music theatre!

— The Guardian (London)

This fine British premiere — a concert performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra superbly prepared by David Robertson, but with the action deftly semi-staged by David Gately — did enough to suggest that Angels in America is one of the most significant operatic statements of our time.

— The Times (London)

The novel event at the Barbican is having concert performances of new operas tested out for one night. They are being given their UK premiere staged quite simply and directed fully.

The production is as satisfying as any fully staged one.

The direction is a miracle of dramatic staging.

— London Theaterreviews

A simple semi-staging by David Gately seemed to serve the piece better than the full stage production in Paris did.

—The Daily Telegraph (London)

Angels in America
Fort Worth Opera (2008)

Photo: Reaching for the Heights: Pine and Moore in Fort Worth's Angels. © Ellen Appel 2008

Kushner's play is one of the most ambitious and prestigious in recent history, and Eötvös's adaptation gets opera companies in on the act. In itself, this music warrants closer study even as it raises questions. At the world premiere, at Paris's Théâtre du Châtelet in 2004, the jagged textures, complex motives and atmospheric orchestrations didn't coalesce for this listener, as they did under Christopher Larkin's expert baton in Fort Worth. The offstage vocal trio, almost unnoticed in Paris, here assumed its proper role as a modern Greek chorus.

David Gately's staging put the clunky Parisian production to shame. He kept scenes brisk, characters vivid and story clear; he even restored a major speech from the play. Peter Nigrini provided video projections and simple, evocative set designs for the opera's many scenes, including some on rolling platforms. Often, a single prop sufficed to establish period and character, reinforced by the eloquent costumes from designer Claudia Stephens.

— William Madison – Opera News

The entire cast – eight singers who share all the roles plus a choral trio – turns out splendid performances. Director David Gately has coaxed them into making this an engaging evening of theater.

— The Dallas Morning News

The production felt seismic….Theater, of course, shouldn’t be medicinal, no matter how well-intentioned. If “Angels” were little more than a noble failure with an historic footnote, it might not be worth a ticket. But this is much more accomplished than that….The abstract, allegorical nature of both the play and this production can also make for sensory overload (much of the action occurs on moving scaffoldings, and video wallpaper projecting images of everything from the Iran-Contra hearings to the image of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge undulating before its collapse). And aside from the gay content, the language of the piece can be shocking as well as funny (“The stiffening of your penis is of no consequence,” says an angel).

But making the investment in “Angels” pays off, especially because the drama feels so real, so meaningful. Although AIDS is not the front-and-center scourge is was when Kushner’s play came out, the opera version still feels relevant.

Director David Gately concentrates his energies where he needs to: The twinkling auras whenever angels appear, the intriguing video elements, the passionate performances.

“Angels” isn’t always easy to watch, but it sneaks up on you, and the effect can approach the overwhelming.

— The Dallas Voice

Angels in America is worth experiencing. A new production by the Fort Worth Opera (in conjunction with More Life Festival) that opened at the Scott Theatre on Friday is commendable for its veracity and daring.

In scenic designer Peter Nigrini's modular New York City, capsule scenes of apartments, offices and streets -- on tall, jutting platforms and at stage level -- were wheeled in and out in an ever-changing patchwork. Director David Gately kept the pace fast.

If the music stays cacophonous, focus on the story. Angels in America unfolds in a straightforward timeline. Though fraught with emotion, some moments are quite funny. And for those who brave it, the opera offers hope -- even a kind of peace -- at its end.

— Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

"Staged by David Gately, FWO's Angels In America is set mostly in shadow on an empty stage across which the punk rockers move rolling set pieces and scaffolding. The spotlights were white and precise, seeming to come from within the characters rather than shining down on them. Twinkling softly over the mises-en-scene were tiny lights that suggested twilight or wil-o-the-wisps.

The balance between drama, black comedy, and melodrama is excruciatingly delicate here and the slightest false note would have been thrown into stentorian relief. Sunday's show was as close to flawless as humanly - or angelically - possible."

— Fort Worth Weekly