Amanda Roocroft (c) Neil Libbert
Visually, Charles Edwards' set and Adam Silverman's lighting work well, but the marble, glass and steel walls suggest the coldness of the legal world, while the flowers that strew the stage hint at post-war decadence. The opera consequently feels underpowered by lacking an overarching concept, and the singers have to battle against a large central performance area to generate the intimacy and charge that the drama demands.
In spite of this, the cast fare well. Peter Hoare is a suitably perturbed Albert Gregor, Laura Mitchell a delightful Kristina, Ashley Holland a sturdy Baron and Andrew Shore a model Dr Kolenatý. The highest accolades, however, must go to Amanda Roocroft as Emilia Marty whose voice can be bold or sensitive, and who even as she sits glamorously with her cigarette hints at the despair that lies beneath.
The staging is at its best in the final act when good use is made of the chorus who, faceless and soulless, move in set formations, while in the pit Richard Armstrong demonstrates a sure command of Janá?ek's wondrous score.
It remains sad that Sir Charles Mackerras, the conductor who first introduced this Czech composer's operas to British audiences, should have died so recently, but when we watch productions such as this we can be thankful for all that he did.
Until 5 October (five performances).Tickets: 0871 911 02000 or from the ENO website
By Samuel Smith