Time Out 2011

The Power of Love

(Feature headline on Manifest Destiny 2011 in Time Out)

In the intimate theatre space of Islington’s King’s Head Opera Up Close is putting the final touches to its latest chamber opera.Amid the tenth anniversary of 9/11 it couldn’t be more timely…..

….The composer Keith Burstein and librettist Dic Edwards have taken the traditional Romeo and Juliet tragic love story and set it in contemporary war torn Arabia, creating a moving and shocking piece re-evaluating the enduring belief that love conquers all…

…The music sits between late romanticism and Philip Glass.It is so lyrical….. and celebrating the idea of love and how powerful it can be is bold and brave

Bachtrack 2011

…..Music and politics combine to form a potent mix. Art in its exclusive pursuit, can arguably avoid making a political statement; but it can also shine a bitingly harsh light on political themes, thus bringing them close to home through personal acts of dramatisation. Manifest Destiny 2011 proudly does the latter…

..David Menzes….is well-suited to his role as Daniel. Convincingly angst-ridden and blindly hysterical, he is poles apart from the absurd CIA Director, (Tom Kennedy), but the two were the most stable musical elements…

….All credit to Pettermerides…for tackling an especially challenging, occasionally stratospherically high Soprano part as Leila….

…ravishing harmonies and tense orchestration….The ensemble – Violin, Viola, Clarinet and Cello –….brought out the powerful depths of Keith Burstein’s score with the dignity and sensitivitiy it deserves….

…There are some very touching moments, and indeed performances, in Manifest Destiny 2011. It improves as it progresses too, leaving the most spellbinding atmosphere of desperation until the final Act.

The Good Review

First produced by London’s Tricycle Theatre in 2004 and revived at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Keith Burstein’s Manifest Destiny is back again at the King’s Head Theatre. It has been reworked, re-produced and reincarnated into a powerfully raw story of love and politics…

..The OperaUpClose cast and crew deserve great credit for an effective presentation of difficult material…

..The opera, by librettist Dic Edwards and composer Keith Burstein, is brought to life by a cast of five talented actors, accompanied by a live ensemble of violin, viola, clarinet and cello which are positioned in one corner of the stage…

…As the action continues, live projections of Leila are shown on a white screen stretching across the orchestra’s corner. This form of media was quite intriguing and creative: an inter-active installation on stage; something you don’t often come across in opera, or a small box theatre such as the King’s Head…

…The libretto is raw, honest and often very uncomfortable, but that was the point. The talented cast all have great voices; strong and able to tackle the challenges of the score. And the orchestra played well with some very beautiful moments. Everyone has different reactions to 9/11, and there is wide range of opinions of the War on Terror but it’s refreshing to see OperaUpClose tackle such highly-charged, contemporary themes.  Whether or not you’re sympathetic to the material, there’s always a wonderful experience to be had at London’s Little Opera House, and I suggest you don’t miss Manifest Destiny 2011.

The Telegraph

Keith Burstein is that curiously isolated and poignant figure….the mass of middle England may well agree with him…..a passionately sincere treatment of middle eastern terrorism….attracted support from Corin and Vanessa Redgrave…..

The Public Reviews

Star-crossed lovers are taken to a whole new level as Leila and Daniel are forced to grapple with their beliefs in an atmosphere of terror.

The Fringe Review

Opera Up Close's 2011 update of the political opera Manifest Destiny provides striking imagery, strong performances and a positive message
The effective use of onstage camera projection onto a large screen (also cleverly hiding the quartet) provides a sense of grandeur not usually seen on the meager Kings Head stage, while the flower strewn stage sends out ambiguous messages of life, death and rebirth. Funereal yet hopeful…

…..What the King's Head has over such arenas as the Royal Opera House is that the performers are up close and personal. The audience can see every inch of the performance so the actors are not able to merely sail through on their vocal abilities. And fortunately they don’t. Every performer acquits themselves admirably, the stand outs being David Menzes and Emma Pettermerides as the blind composer and poet turned terrorist respectively. The pain of the former and the anger and conflict of the latter come across well.”

Archant North London

Manifest Destiny 2011 is a revival of Keith Burstein’s operatic hit from the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Burstein’s score is surprisingly pleasant and generally well-played by a quartet of a cello, viola, clarinet and violin…

….Being able to see the glee in the eyes of Tom Kennedy in the role of the warmongering CIA director as he threatens to “kick Arabian ass” is one of the benefits of such a tiny venue.

The Stage

(The music is in) neo English pastoral style… The five roles are well acted…


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