THOMSON: Four Saints in Three Acts
HIGDON: Cold Mountain
CORIGLIANO: The Ghosts of Versailles
Virgil Thomson (1895 - 1989) is acknowledged as a major figure on the American music scene during the 20th Century. There is no question that his position of music critic the New York Herald Tribune might have influenced performances of his music. He composed profusely in vocal, chamber music, symphonic music, music for band and music for films. He won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize. This site has mentioned a number of recordings of his music (check CD INDEX) including a recent release of all of his songs (REVIEW). . He wrote two operas, Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All. Thomson had a close associatyion with Gertrudce Stein, and she wrote the libretti for both operas. The opera is about on two sixteenth century Spanish saints — Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila, and their followers, St. Settlement and St. Chavez. The cast also includes St. Teresa's alter ego, "St. Teresa II", and the master and mistress of ceremonies called the Compere and CommereFour Saints in Three Acts had its premiere February 7, 1934, Ut had an all0Blaack cast, with modern scnery. It attracted considedrable attention but had a brief run. Several performances on Broadway were equally unsuccessful. The music is simple, often charming, but unmemorable. The opera now receives only occasionao performances one of which is preserved on this fine new BMOC set. This offers a group of excellent soloists and the dybnamic Modern Orchestra Projectr with Gil Rose conducting. All do what can be done for this unmemorable score. This is a superb performance, and the recorded sound takes fuol advantage of mjultui-channel technology This recording was supported by the Firgil Thompson Foundation. You can sample it YouTube..
Jennifer Higdon's Cold Mountain, with a libretto by
Gene Scheer, is based upon Charles Frazier's famous best-selling novel
of love and loss during the Civil War. W. P. Inman, a wounded deserter
from the Confederate army near the end War, walks
for months to return to Cold Mountain and Ada Monroe,
the love of his life. The book was adapted for
the screen by director Anthony Minghella in 2003 amd the film was nominated
for seven Academy Awards
The Ghosts of Versailles was commissioned by the Met and had its premiere there December 19, 1991 with James Levine conducting. It was well received, although many felt that it was entirely too long. It had about a dozen performances during that era, but none since. One can understand why, as the cast is huge, the score very intricate, choreography very involved, and most singers must display considerable athleticism. There is is always a lot of action in this opera/comic opera. It often is bizarre and comic, with serious "ghostly" episodes as well. Often singers are suspended above the stage. John Corigliano's score is brilliant and imaginative, richly orchestrated. The opera is fascinating to view. On this fine Pentatone issue we can hear audience response, but not understand just what amuses them. This performance is superb in every way, and was recorded during live performances at at the Los Angeles Opera February/March 2015 in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Los Angeles Music Center. Audio is superb, and this is a deluxe presentation in a small box with profuse program notes, photos and a complete libretto. 41 cuing tracks are provided. If you are interested in this unique opera you should investigate the PBS video telecast from the Met, available from the Met. What a pleasure it is to view Teresa Stratas, Marilyn Horne, Renée Fleming, an a youthful energetic James Leviine. For a fascinating operatic experience, get both the Met video and the Pentatone set as well.
R.E.B. (January 2017)