Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Tyalgum Press

Will TODD (b.1970)
The Blackened Man (2000) - an opera - two extracts
libretto by Ben Dunwell
Isabella - Moira Harris
Jobling/Boak - Mark le Broq
Minister Hepburn - Philip Bell
Armstrong/Clarke - Graeme Danby
Judge Parke/Murray - Roddy Williams
Chorus: Bibbi Heel (sop); Debra Skeen (sop); Valerie Reid (mezzo)
Hallé Orchestra/Christopher Austin
rec. Studio 7, Manchester and Copthorne Studios, 2001 DDD
TYALGUM PRESS BMCD1 01 5 [11.10]

This is a promotional CD - a calling card for the composer to use to persuade those most obdurate of institutions, opera managements, to commit to a premiere. It was almost certainly made at the same sessions as those which produced the recording of Todd's major choral-orchestral work, Saint Cuthbert.

The first thing that strikes you about this music and its performance is its loyalty to the words. They can all be heard. The operatic kit of smudged vowels and swallowed consonants is anathema to Todd and his librettist.

The musical language is direct and unflowery. The music is clear and dramatically well-tuned and balanced. The music and for that matter the plotline rests in territory related to that of Alan Bush in his always ideologically charged operas whether it is Joe Hill or The Sugar Reapers or Wat Tyler or the Men of Blackmoor. Other reference points include the more serious moments in Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and Malcolm Williamson's Our Man in Havana. There is an awe-struck quality about this music especially in Judge Parke's sentencing of the all-but-blameless, Jobling. Jobling is, by the way, ‘The Blackened Man’. His sentence in 1830s North-Eastern England is to be hanged and gibbeted in a metal cage; his body with its death agonies is to be preserved with molten pitch. The cage is to be paraded from village to village to discourage further strikes. Its ‘grand tour’ will call at 'brutish stinking Jarrow' where Jobling’s family will smell his corpse 'on the wind'. Todd's lyrical gift is very strong indeed witness 'the water's cold ... I feel it' as sung by Isabella in the first Pithead track at 1.32.

This opera promises to be a significant piece of work easily accessible to the musical public though possibly tough going for those who take exception to Todd’s histprical realism.

It is good to hear Christopher Austin conducting the Hallé. I do hope that we will hear more of him. In pipe-dreams we can imagine Austin conducting a complete cycle of the Williamson symphonies although closer to this disc I would gladly welcome a complete recording of The Blackened Man.

If you are at all drawn to modern opera and to figures such as Daniel Catán and Lionel Sainsbury then you should ask for a copy of this disc and barrack your 'local' opera-house to premiere the complete opera.


Rob Barnett


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