He sings the title role in ENO’s new production of Detlev Glanert’s Caligula
Following his acclaimed assumption of the role of Harry Joy in the world premiere of Brett Dean’s Bliss (seen in Sydney and Melbourne and at the 2010 Edinburgh International Festival), Peter Coleman-Wright returns in the hugely demanding title role of Glanert’s Caligula in the UK premiere staging at ENO, directed by Benedict Andrews and conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth. It is another milestone in a hugely significant career with both London companies, which has included for ENO: Figaro (Barbiere), Onegin, Don Giovanni, Scarpia, Billy Budd, Henze’s Prince of Homburg, Harvey’s Inquest of Love, Blake’s The Plumber’s Gift and the baritone roles in Death in Venice; and for the Royal Opera: Dandini, Papageno, Billy Budd, Marcello, Gunther (Gotterdammerung) and Beckmesser (Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg).
Hugh Canning, writing in The Australian:
GERMAN composer Detlev Glanert (born 1960) has provided Australian baritone Peter Coleman-Wright with the role of a lifetime in Friday night’s triumphant British premiere of his 2006 opera, Caligula, by English National Opera at the London Coliseum.
In the titular anti-hero, Glanert has created a colossal operatic figure, a bass-baritone counterpart to Strauss’s Salome or Elektra with the neurosis of his Herod and Clytemnestra thrown in. Caligula is a successor to Berg’s Wozzeck or Aribert Reimann’s Lear and it provides Coleman-Wright with another vehicle to display his powers as a singing actor, after his acclaimed creation of the leading role in Bliss, by Australian composer Brett Dean
But the evening belongs above all to Coleman-Wright and Andrews, both rapturously received by the audience, along with the composer and exemplary conductor, Ryan Wigglesworth, at the close. Caligula is a great company achievement, but it is a milestone for a singer with a long and distinguished career at both London houses and a director who seems the most exciting “newcomer” to opera and theatre in London in decades.
What’s On Stage (Mark Valencia):
Peter Coleman-Wright, though, is electrifying as Caligula. He inhabits the character’s irrational threats and unhinged cruelty to chilling effect, as appalling when kitted out in mucky underwear or full drag as when intimidating his would-be conspirators. He puts Glanert’s demanding score across with unhesitating conviction.
The Guardian (Tim Ashley):
The cast is consistently superb: Coleman-Wright is outstanding in the gruelling title role
The Times (Richard Morrison):
Coleman-Wright’s performance is a tour de force: grotesque and mesmerising
Musical Pointers (Peter Grahame Woolf)
On stage for most of two hours, Peter Coleman-Wright was brilliant throughout as the sad, mad, moon-struck tyrant who invites us to join him in his savagery – “we’re all in it together”. There must be an ENO DVD of this fine production.
Limelight magazine (Sarah Noble):
Just as he did as Harry Joy in Brett Dean’s Bliss — another man transformed by trauma into a stranger in his own life — Peter Coleman-Wright pulls off a tour de force as the terrifying (and terrifyingly charismatic) dictator, his despotic antics peppered with just enough humanity to throw an observer off balance. And just like Harry, Caligula is one heck of a role: almost never off stage and almost never not singing. Glanert’s vocal writing isn’t quite as extreme as Dean’s, but it’s still a mighty challenge, particularly when the orchestra is at its blaringest. The role also makes a host of dramatic demands, from the comic to the tragic, the sublime to the ridiculous to the just plain disturbing. Peter is master of them all. And I’m here to tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen one of Australia’s finest singers strut his stuff in a gold lamé dress and a long blonde wig. Singing up a storm all the while, I might add!
Classical Source (Colin Anderson):
The first-night performance was a triumph, the ENO Orchestra in top form under the perceptive conducting of Ryan Wigglesworth (himself a composer). The singers were unstinting in their words (good translation) and acting. Peter Coleman-Wright was immersed in the role of Caligula (as he was, filmed, as Harry Joy in Brett Dean’s opera, Bliss – which would be ideal for ENO
Opera Britannia (Dominic Wells):
To describe the title role of Caligula as a tour-de-force is an understatement. The character is seldom absent from the stage and the part requires colossal vocal stamina, as well as a musical and dramatic intelligence to bring out the pure evil of the dictator. Peter Coleman-Wright possessed every one of these skills to an almost disturbing degree…..any subsequent Caligulas face a very tall order indeed. His acting alone was faultless, but this was supported by singing of the highest order, pitch-perfect intonation and clear diction, though he did sound (not inappropriately) weary towards the end. His grotesque portrayal in Act II was especially memorable, spitting out his food at his guests, spilling wine over them, and finally ripping off the tablecloth, sending all the food onto the floor, and fashioning a pseudo Roman toga out of it.