Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Herrmann, Pro Arte Orchestra|
Herrmann: Wuthering Heights (Complete Opera)
Genres: Pop, Soundtracks, Classical
Bronte aned Herrmann are an Unbeatable Combo!
Christopher Forbes | Brooklyn,, NY | 05/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernard Herrmann - Wuthering HeightsWuthering Heights is a book that is just dying to become an opera. And Bernard Herrmann was one of the most dramatic and operatic of mid-twentieth century American composers. The marriage of story and composer should have made for one of the most popular operas in the literature. And yet Herrmann's masterwork took ten years to write and never really held the stage. Like many people, I chalked it up to a great film composer who tried to reach to far and failed. Then I heard the opera and I must say, I am mystified as to why this work isn't in the repertoire. It's extremely powerful, beautifully written and worthy of standing next to any of the best modern operas. The libretto of the work is excellent. Herrmann's first wife is responsible for it. She and the composer decided that only the first half of the Bronte work should be treated as opera, a wise decision. Though the second half of Wuthering Heights is marvelous in it's own way, dramatically, it wouldn't hold the stage well. In addition to this cut, much of the action is telescoped into discreet scenes. And yet all of the spirit and power of the Bronte original is kept, along with almost all of the language. The libretto is constructed either of lines lifted directly from the book, though sometimes translated to different characters, or lifted sensitively from Bronte's own poetry. The result is an old-fashioned 19th century libretto complete with set pieces, and yet completely faithful to the Bronte and to 20th century dramatic practices. Herrmann's music is from beginning to end, brilliant. Herrmann is one of a half a dozen composers active in the late 20th century who could take a traditional romantic language and say something deeply personal with it. From the first measures of the stormy prelude you know that this is Herrmann's music. All of the hallmarks from his film music are present, stormy dissonances, bold and colorful orchestrations, repeated pithy motives, and a harmonic language that can border on atonality, but is never far removed from it's tonal and romantic origins. Each scene is discreetly composed to project the physical and emotional atmosphere. The prologue is developed from three tense and haunting motives which will dominate the opera. The first scene of Act I contains some of the most lovely lyric singing in modern opera as Heathcliff and Cathy sing a paean to the wild Moors of Yorkshire. Hindley's music is violent and careens drunkenly, as his character should. The Thrushcross Grange scene is all elegance and taste, a beautiful counterpoint to the darker music of the Heights. As it should be, the music for Heathcliff and Cathy are the heart of this work. Cathy is by turns ecstatic, lyrical and controlled, as befits a character who's unbridled nature is wild, but who is just barely tamed by the society around her. Heathcliff is all storm and tempest, at any moment about to break into passion and yet as ardent as any lover. Their duets are the high points of the opera...the sexual tension between them is felt palpably throughout the score. And the final scene, the death of Cathy and the beginning of Heathcliff's long vigil is unbelievably haunting...sends shivers up and down my spine in exactly the same way as the Fool in Boris Godanov or the Child's hop-hops in Wozzeck do. This CD is a reissue of the original recording done by Herrmann at his own expense in England. The cast is not first rate. Particularly disappointing are the principals. Donald Bell's voice strains at the extremes of his register and his diction is not very good...Cathy comes out sounding like caddy way too often from my taste...And Moerag Beaton is unpleasantly shrill in her role and has some lapses in intonation. But the Pro Arte Orchestra under Herrmann is fabulous, and until someone sees the light and redoes this work, this is all we have...and unfortunately for many of you, this CD is increasingly hard to get...Unicorn is defunct. I had to get this through the Amazon.com used channels. It is worth it all in the end though. The work is terrific, romantic and deeply moving. I'm surprised actually that, given the interest in Herrmann's film music evidenced by so many orchestras, that an opera company doesn't do a "crossover" tie-in and programs this work. I would predict it to be a hit with audiences and critics alike. This is an unjustly neglected work!"
Herrmann at his best!
Sren Thomsen | Århus Denmark | 08/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rarely have I heard a composer so completely in tune with his subject matter as Bernard Herrmann is with his: the classic novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronté. Herrmann's music is in every way perfectly fitted for the beatiful words by Bronté - the libretto consits almost entirely of text directly from the book, and the librettist (Lucille Fletcher, Herrmann's first wife) brilliantly blends in some of Bronté's poetry, such as "I am the only being whose doom..." and "Love is like the wild rose briar". The result is breathtaking and deeply moving. Herrmann's love for the novel really shows and he gives an extremely personal interpretation of it, in a wonderfully romantic style reminiscent of his early filmscores for "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" and "Jane Eyre" (parts of these scores actually appear in the opera). The recording itself is marvellous. Herrmann had to wait over 10 years before he could realize his opera, and since no one was interested in producing it, this remains the definitive version of it. (A performance was staged after Herrmann's death, but horribly editied and with a new, more up-beat ending). Although not an opera conductor per se, Herrmann's conducting is wonderful and the orchestra is also quite good (though not in any way comparable to an orchestra of world class). The singers are not world class either, but are very much into their roles and perform the parts with great depth and dedication. If you like the music of Bernard Herrmann I recommende you get this opera - it is his magnum opus and no Herrmann fan should be without it. Even if you don't like opera, get it anyway. It makes a good introduction to the genre."
A Treasure That Should Never Be Lost!
Newman | Olympia, WA United States | 03/26/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernard Herrmann's obsession in his life, Wuthering Heights, an opera that he had started to work on in the 1940s and didn't finish until the 1950s, and had so hoped to perform it. It wasn't until 1966 that his grand opera was finally performed. This opera I thought I was never ever in my life going to hear. When I did listen to it, I found out why Herrmann was so obsessed. I also noticed that there were numerous amounts of music that he's used in other films. For example, in Act I, he used the music from the beginning of the film The Ghost And Mrs. Muir, and on cd 2, track 7, Herrmann used the Second Nocturne from The Magnificent Ambersons, which was cut out of the final cut. At the end of Act II, he used the sea music from The Ghost And Mrs. Muir, when they are showing the passing years for Mrs. Muir, and on track 6 on cd 3, he used the Andante Cantabile from The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. I also found out why people say the What Lies Beneath score sounds like Bernard Herrmann's music is because Alan Silvestri wrote the main theme similar to Herrmann's main theme for the opera (the 5 note sequence). The last part of the opera, when Cathy's voice is heard on the moors was very spine-tingling with the sound of the wind and the low flute. I will admit though that the love scenes of the opera were sometimes just too dragging for me. I just still can't believe it, after finding out his obsession and love for the opera, I finally get to hear it, with him as the conductor. I love you Bernard Herrmann, and I wish you were still here today. Your music will never stop inspiring others."