Review: Phaedra / Minotaur

Exploring doomed and overpowering love

international review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Phaedra / Minotaur
Photo by Tristram Kenton
Published 19 Aug 2023

Doomed, overpowering love is a theme in this split bill of opera and dance. Benjamin Britten’s cantata Phaedra is sung by mezzo soprano Christine Rice, with Richard Hetherington on piano. It’s Phaedra’s wedding day to Theseus but in tragic Greek soap opera style, she’s fallen in lust with his son, Hippolytus. 

As if Greek mythology wasn’t confusing enough, the six-packed man who scorns Phaedra as Hippolytus shows up again as the acrobatic dancer in the love triangle between Phaedra’s sister Ariadne, Theseus and the Minotaur. The six-pack belongs to Tommy Franzen, dancer and Strictly Come Dancing choreographer. His graceful descent of a climbing wall is a highlight in the piece, where he rotates and slinks towards Ariadne, furtively, then more seductively during a trance-like dream sequence. 

While Rice gets across the life-destroying disgrace of her predicament with tortured anguish, all while wearing a very everyday linen shirt and trousers, the love triangle takes a more pleasant approach to the storytelling. There are flashes of ugliness in a chapter called ‘Departure’ where the Royal Ballet’s Isabel Lubach clings to her lover, literally hanging from him. Elsewhere the messy emotions are diluted slightly through the cryptic staging and serene routines.