Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

FRANK CLIFF More of the fruitful collaboration between Aldeburgh Productions and Almeida Opera was on show with the premiere of Simon Holt's Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

FRANK CLIFF

More of the fruitful collaboration between Aldeburgh Productions and Almeida Opera was on show with the premiere of Simon Holt's Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

Its genesis was a newspaper article about the discovery, in 1943, of woman's decaying body inside an old wych elm. For Holt, Bella became an obsession, becoming a musical drama in which he proposes a solution to what is still an unsolved mystery.

First impressions are of a wonderfully atmospheric score, beginning as extended chamber music for violin and piano before a splendid coup de theatre as the pianist's page turner is transformed into the narrator.

The vocal writing for this voice, and later for Bella, is stunning and was sung by Andrew Slater and Rachel Nicholls.

Visually, it is stunning, though a libretto would have been welcome – and I have to confess I am still not sure who put Bella in the Wych Elm.

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