It looks as if the English National Opera is trying to reach the ‘uneducated’ masses with this production of Dr Dee. It is collaboration between the ENO, the Manchester International Festival and the London 2012 Festival. It is the story of John Dee, an Elizabethan courtier, mathematician, astrologer and occultist. His actual life story goes astray somewhere in this production which is a pity because it is quite a story.
John Dee was a fascinating character but the narrative lets him down here. It is a story of sex, royalty and mathematics and selling oneself to the devil but it all gets lost in a production which is a bit haphazard to say the least. Saying that it is all good fun and somewhat gripping if a bit baffling. You are given a synopsis of the plot but even that is a bit hard to follow, so you have to stick with it.
The visual displays and the music are fantastic and the choreography by Steven Hoggett is equally good. The undoubted draw here is Damon Alban, formerly the lead singer with Britpop band, Blur. Alban is a great talent and has proved this on many occasions. His singing might not appeal to opera buffs but there is no denying that he has a good voice and always seems to hit the notes.
His music, too, is good and, although a bit melancholy, it can be very beautiful. Paul Hilton, as Dee, performs well and also has a good voice. So there are some good points to this production. In fact some very good points and there is a moral tale in here somewhere if you can find it. It is exciting to watch and if you can manage to follow the plot, so much the better.