Wednesday, 22 February 2006

RVW's Operas

In the latest issue of Opera that Michael Kennedy in his article about Vaughan Williams's Sir John in Love (soon to be given a new production by Ian Judge at the Coliseum) looks forward to the 50th anniversary of RVW's death in the hope that his other operas might be performed. I had 2 reactions to this, the first was surprise at it only being 50 years since RVW died; musical life is so radically different to what it was in his lifetime it is difficult not to imagine far more time has passed.


Regarding RVW's other operas, I'm not going to hold my breath. I have still not seen a professional production of Riders to the Sea and have never seen Hugh the Drover. I'm not sure about the latter, it has some lovely music but I have a horrifying feeling that it will seem rather dated in that curious English way. We happily put up with opera companies dredging up items from the fringes of consciousness and we don't get too worked up that the libretto is rather lacking. But perform a rarely done opera with an English libretto and everyone gets highly critical.


We desperately need someone to bring Riders to the Sea back into regular performance. It is RVW's undisputed masterpiece, but at a bare 45 minutes long it is rather difficult to programme especially it is rather dark in subject matter (it sets a Synge play about a family in the West of Ireland where the men tend to work on the sea and die there. RVW was working on another Synge opera when he died (based on The Tinker's Wedding, I think). If he'd finished it, it would have made an ideal pairing. As it is we're casting around for a balance programme.


The other operas are less likely to appear. The Pilgrims Progress requires a large cast and resources. It was given a fine semi-staged production at the Barbican when the Royal Opera House was in exile, so I can't see there being a stampede to stage it. It has also been troubled by accusations of lack of drama and being an oratorio in disguise. But having seen it twice (once in the ROH staging and once in a tremendous full staging by the Royal Northern College of Music) I can't agree and would love to see it again.


Over the Poisoned Kiss we'll draw a veil and solace ourselves with Richard Hickox's disc of highlights which hides the work's terrible libretto. (Not just English embarassing, but really awful).

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