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Michael Berkeley For you
Ian McEwan (libretto)

Alan Opie (baritone), Helen Williams (soprano), Rachel Nicholls (soprano), Allison Cook (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Lemmings (tenor) and Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone)

Music Theatre Wales Ensemble/Michael Rafferty

Signum SIGCD 208 (2 hrs 12 mins; recorded Oct/Nov 2008)

After a postponement, because the original singer developed serious vocal health problems, Alan Opie took on the part of a megalomanic composer/conductor. I saw it at the Covent Garden Linbury Studio, where it made quite an impression, but left one in some confusion having not been able to hear enough of Ian McEwan's intricate text.

We had not been invited to review For you at The Linbury, but here now is an admirable compact disc recording made live there, which serves the composer well, and the librettist too (text in full in clear, large print).

It is a subtle murder mystery opera with a passably ingenious story line by Ian McEwan, save for the gullibility of the police, who leave the true villain free and triumphant - pre-trial...

Alan Opie plays the egocentric and compulsive womaniser of a successful composer/conductor; the plot culminates and climaxes in a hospital post-operative care unit. It evoked thoughts of the ENO/Young Vic Henze opera about a megalomanic, destructive poet, seen more recently.

As so often in modern opera, the essential text will never be sufficiently audible in the theatre, nor indeed even on disc; too much is always required of sopranos soaring up into their high registers. That apart, all the roles are well taken, and the score has a real frisson where appropriate. It might go well also on the small screen; was it filmed with a wiew to a possible DVD or, at the least, some excerpts on YouTube?

Reviews on the Internet are sparse, and this recording, admirably presented with an illustrated booklet, is to be welcomed.

Michael Berkeley Jane Eyre
Libretto by David Malouf

Andrew Slater, Natasha Marsh, Fflur Wyn, Beverley Mills, Emily Bauer-Jones
Music Theatre Wales Ensemble/Michael Rafferty

[71.47 - live from the Linbury Theatre, Covent Garden, November 2000]

Music Theatre Wales mounted a successful Cheltenham Festival premiere of Jane Eyre in 2000 and I am pleased to have caught up on it with this well produced recording. Malouf's libretto is a distillation of the essential heart of the novel, but bringing Mr Rochester's mad, imprisoned wife to centre stage as a chief protagonist.

The scene is set and explained by full notes in a well illustrated inset booklet and full texts help listening, though the diction is generally commendably good. The orchestration for about a dozen instrumentalists (the Britten chamber opera line-up, Berkeley's admitted model) is fairly transparent and this earlier opera greatly rewards retrospective acquaintance.

More Michael Berkeley operas to come in the future, I trust - and that Musical Pointers will be invited to review them live...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Read more at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Dec02/JaneEyre.htm#ixzz109wEj6zn