Review: All Rest

The Watchman in his sentry box, played by Johannes Gerger with Bradley Winand on violin

By Wansteadium’s opera reviewer Austin Allegro

Opera folk are accustomed to some or all of the characters ending up dead. In All Rest, the Wanstead-themed opera premiered in St Mary’s churchyard on Monday, everyone is dead to begin with. 

However as audience members are led around the graves by robed spirits, the cast come back to life. Apparitions of various deceased sing their tales of loss, longing or lives lived; human voices rising above the birdsong in the evening sun. What nearby golfers would have made of it is not known.

Among the characters are Jessie Nutter, one of the sisters who bequeathed much to the people of Wanstead, enquiring of her sister what happened to the Green; a watchman waiting in the sentry box, night after night; the unnamed mother of 15-year-old Sarah clutching a doll as if it would bring her dead girl back; and, magnificently, astronomer-rector James Pound lighting up the shadows as he delights in having predicted an eclipse.

By walking among us, these dead mingle with the living, who are now only separated by accidents of time. Perhaps they are standing as a warning that it’s later than we think.

All Rest was composed by Italian-born (but Wanstead-living) Simone Spagnolo with libretto by Serena Braida, and was brought to life as part of St Mary’s Music Festival. The composition, staging and performance were of a standard rarely seen in these parts; more chances to experience it will be demanded.