Magazine article Opera Canada

The Importance of Being Earnest

Magazine article Opera Canada

The Importance of Being Earnest

Article excerpt




Irish composer Gerald Barry's 80-minute, three-act opera from the famous play by Oscar Wilde is a real gem: witty, riotous, rapid-fire, with gigantic vocal leaps and sudden dynamic shifts that make no dramatic sense, wild(e) in every way. And he manages to capture the essence of the story even after removing approximately two thirds of the original text. It is, of course, a very wordy, timeless and erudite play that always amuses, as it does in this version.

The opera was jointly commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Barbican Centre in London, but received its world premiere staging at Opera national de Lorraine in Nancy, France, in 2013. Two further productions have taken place at the Linbury Theatre of London's Royal Opera. This is its world premiere recording, taken from a live concert performance at the Barbican in April 2012.Thomas Ades conducts the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, a chamber ensemble including string quintet and a heavy contingent of brass and percussion instruments, which dominate the soundscape (the tuba has some hilarious moments).

Born in 1952, Barry studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel and those influences are apparent everywhere. There are no true arias and the recitatives are set in a highly syllabic style, with comic pauses where they are least expected and stresses on weak beats. In almost patter-music fashion, it seems the characters are trying to spill out more words than there are notes to support them. …

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