Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|David Atherton, London Sinfonietta, Phyllis Bryn-Julson|
Birtwistle: Punch and Judy
Listen to Samples
Opera on Opera
(4 out of 5 stars)
"'Punch and Judy' is an opera about opera. It purposefully examines the conventions of opera from peri to nono. In so doing, it examines the nature of drama and its relation to music. It also contemplates the idea of performance. Many of Birtwistle's ideas about drama are influenced by the traditional Japanese 'Noh' Theatre. The drama always makes it plain that the characters are only tools, and does not allow one to lose oneself in a realm of 'escapism.' This is one reason why the characters are puppets from the Western tradition (it parallels the use of traditional characters in Noh Theatre). All of the characters in Punch and Judy are monstrous. Each is so inhuman that we cannot feel any empathy toward them. The protagonist goes about butchering the other characters of the opera. When the focus is removed from the plot and the interactions of the characters, we are allowed to contemplate the 'ritual' of concertgoing and the bizarre formulas that Birtwistle has hidden in the opera. The message of 'Punch and Judy' simply deals with the questions of 'what is opera?' 'Why do we watch it?' 'what is Drama?' and 'is there a difference between high art and popular art?'Overall, the performance is good. The London Sinfonietta deals well with some obtuse material. The vocalists are on some unfamiliar territory, and it shows occasionally. They are given a plateful of extended techniques such as screaming, speech/song (sprechstimme) and timbral alterations a la Cathy Barberian (also the range of the parts is wide, as is typical of Birtwistle). Sometimes their tone is dulled by high larynx position in transitional moments between full voiced song and sprechstimme, or from a caricature voice to full voice. These are all forgivable, and do not really mar the performance in much more than polish. However, the sound technician, which recorded the piece was poor. Often during the screams, the mics are overwhelmed and there is heavy distortion.Overall, if you are interested in modern music, you should explore this disc, as it is the only recording of 'Punch and Judy' available at this time (I would also highly recommend 'Mask of Orpheus' of Birtwistle). Though it is a disc of fair quality, I would not recommend it to those new to the modern ouvere."