15 Feb 2006
BARRY: The Intelligence Park
Irish composer Gerald Barry insists that “Really, my music is very straightforward.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
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This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
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Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
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This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Irish composer Gerald Barry insists that “Really, my music is very straightforward.
It’s pure emotion” (in an interview with Ian Hewitt on telegraph.co.uk). Indeed, this sentiment is audible in his first opera, The Intelligence Park, now available on a 2-disc set from the NMC label.
The Intelligence Park is in some ways a quintessentially operatic tale; the libretto by Vincent Deane is replete with greed, betrayal, unrequited love, conflict between private love and public duty, and of course, homosexuals. Unlike operas of previous centuries that leave issues of same-sex love to be guessed at by the listener, The Intelligence Park features two sets of long-term “companions” whose relationships are destroyed through the course of the opera.
Set in Dublin in 1753, The Intelligence Park’s protagonist, Robert Paradies, is a composer of opera seria struggling with writer’s block. As Paradies is reminded by his long-time companion D’Esperaudieu, he is required to marry the none-too-talented Jerusha, daughter of the wealthy magistrate Sir Joshua Cramer in order to inherit wealth that will allow him to dedicate himself solely to composing opera. At a party held in order to cement the engagement between Paradies and Jerusha, Paradies meets and becomes obsessed with the castrato Serafino. The barriers between Paradies and the object of his affections include not only his relationship with D’Esperaudieu and his engagement to Jerusha, but also Serfino’s long-time companion Faranesi and Serafino’s love for Jerusha, his music student.
Paradies finds enough inspiration for his stalled opera in his obsession for Serafino to start composing scenes for “Wattle” and “Daub.” These scenes as they are imagined by Paradies are manifest on the stage with Serafino and Jerusha acting and singing the parts of the Italian opera seria as Paradies sets them down on paper. In addition to these six “actual” characters and two imaginary ones, the score also calls for a chorus of “dummies” and boy soprano—both heard offstage. In this recording the chorus consists of the taped voices of the six soloists, and the boy soprano is also on tape.
The plot of The Intelligence Park contains references to some events that actually occurred in 1753: there was a solar eclipse and a famous castrato did elope with a wealthy young woman. Despite these true events, The Intelligence Park for the most part exemplifies the “coolness and bizarre artificiality” that first drew Barry to Deane’s libretto. Barry’s music is extremely compelling in its portrayal of the emotions of the characters throughout the opera. Barry succeeds in portraying old familiarity between Paradies and D’Esperaudieu, as well the anxiety and anger that are blocking Paradies’ creative output.
Barry uses a host of musical techniques, including pastiche (of Baroque styles), pointillistic textures, lyricism, deftly executed contrapuntal sections, and contrasting orchestral colors, to express the depths of human emotions from love to anger to self-pity to madness, and more. Barry also uses of repeated music within the opera to excellent effect. While the narrative seems a bit disjointed when one considers the libretto, the listener will not feel lost because of Barry’s deftness at manipulating the many sudden changes of mood inherent in the text.
The Intelligence Park was composed between 1981 and 1990, and it was commissioned for the MusICA Series at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Unfortunately, the opera has not been staged as a production again since its 1990 premiere. This may be in part because of the technical requirements of the soloists and the orchestra to mount such a work. In face of criticism of the virtuosic nature of music of his music, Barry defends himself saying, “All I want is to get to the heart of the text in the most direct way possible” (in interview with Hewitt about his third opera The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant). Although there is no doubt that The Intelligence Park is a challenging work for both performer and listener, the time spent is well worth it.
The Graduate Center – CUNY