This review was written for Animations Online
Part of the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival, this concert produced by Opera North features a combination of classical singing and live animation in the candlelit surrounds of Shoreditch Church. ‘The Little Match Girl Passion’ (based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story and written by David Lang) is a hypnotic 35 minute piece that tells the tragic story of a girl left out in the cold. Vocal ensemble I Fagiolini deliver the haunting narrative beautifully. Their voices are sparsely punctuated with gentle bells and drums and accompanied by projected visuals created live on stage by puppeteer and animator Matthew Robins.
The singing is king in this piece but the delicate illustration style and cool colours of the projections compliment the music. Robins’ swirling snow animations and bright city lights, which mix together animated films with live paper work, are lovely to look at; while his crowd scenes, where the lonely little match girl is lost and ignored, are chilling.
The puppetry, using a mixture of 2D and 3D rod puppets, isn’t completely successful. Robins works alone and doesn’t leave himself time to invest his characters with believable life. The movements of the match girl are often not convincing and the brief appearance of her grandmother feels decidedly jerky. He is a puppeteer under pressure, leaving long pauses between scenes and wonky scenery uncorrected.
The performance doesn’t feel especially collaborative or intertwined. Robins keeps to his side of the stage and I Fagiolini keep to theirs. That said, the DIY feeling projections have an endearing quality which doesn’t distract from the altogether more slick delivery of the singers. The music and visuals are well matched and, while this experimental piece has its flaws, the overall result is a happily unusual one.