The Importance of Being Earnest - Britten Sinfonia

The Importance of Being Earnest

Reviews from the revival of the Royal Opera House’s production of Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest at the Barbican Theatre


"The accompanying chamber ensemble has a virtuoso role in Barry’s score, and the players of Britten Sinfonia under conductor Tim Murray were constantly kept on their toes. The playing was brash, refined and dazzling as required and the brass in particular – from trilling horns to stratospherically dancing trumpet – deserve particular praise."

The Guardian

"Yet within these and similar perversities lies much of the direct humour of the piece, whose studied artificiality is equally underlined by Christina Cunningham’s contemporary costumes, the on stage presence of the doughty Britten Sinfonia under conductor Tim Murray, and such bruitist audio-visual interventions as the stomping jackboots or the now notorious frenzy of plate-smashing..."

The Stage

"The angular, brittle vocal writing, with singers often yelling at the top of their ranges, and the shotgun syllabic setting in the hectic first scene brilliantly underline the artificiality of the characters in this comedy of manners."


"It's a virtuoso piece as much for the players – who of course also have to participate vocally – as the singers. As I said, you know a masterpiece when you hear one, and the operatic Importance is here to stay."


"Smashing plates, women yelling through a megaphone, plastic guns and flying food — not exactly what you envision when thinking about opera."

Financial Times

"Topsy-turvy and gleefully impolite, the Irish composer’s fifth opera is a thing of extremes, as evinced by the casting of Lady Bracknell as a bass and Cecily as a skyscraping coloratura soprano."


"The music is highly innovative, utilising a quintet of strings, sinuous wind and discordant brass, and the range of effects that are produced is quite remarkable."

The Times

"There are squelchy contra-bassoons, frenzied trumpet ritornellos, horns trilling like ululating rhinoceroses and a percussionist smashing plates as if he's attending eight simultaneous Greek weddings"

Classical Source

"An especially astute touch is the return of singers to the front row of the auditorium between appearances, having an effect not of alienation as of blurring any division between performers and audience – so involving everyone in the inanity."

Planet Hugill

"The music was eclectic and mainly bonkers. The Britten Sinfonia consisted of a string quintet with brass (and outrageously long trill from the horns) and wind and a huge array of percussion including wind machine and the aforementioned plates, smashed to the ground in time to conductor Tim Murray’s beat."

The Daily Express

"They key to the production is incongruity: the words may be mostly Wilde's, but Barry and Gray twist them into such absurd contortions that the effect is hilarious."

The Sunday Express

"Britten Sinfonia under conductor Tim Murray is ranged on stage along with the singers, the musicians providing the stamping feet along with the instrumental sounds to Barry’s wildly inventive score."

The Evening Standard

"Tim Murray creditably directs the Britten Sinfonia, tested to its limits by this impossibly riotous score, complete with ironic referencing of that hymn to social harmony Auld Lang Syne."

The Observer

"Vocal lines are supported and coloured by quirky instrumental pairings. Contrabassoon and bassoon, trombone and tuba grunt eloquently."