Now, at almost 70 years old and half a century after he penned the archetypal rock lyric “Hope I die before I get old”, Townshend has created a “classical” version of one of The Who’s landmark albums – Quadrophenia – for a symphony orchestra, opera singer and choir.
The new “symphonised” version of Quadrophenia, an album originally released by The Who in 1973, was orchestrated by Rachel Fuller, a professional composer, orchestrator and singer-songwriter in her own right – and also the partner of Pete Townshend.
It will be released by the Deutsche Grammophon label, internationally renowned for its repertoire of classical and opera music, and launched this summer with a world premiere concert at the Royal Albert Hall, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and London Oriana Choir.
The project is the latest chapter in Townshend’s lifelong mission to break the three-minute mold of the traditional pop song and take rock music to a higher artistic level. In the 1960s he defined the concept of the “rock opera” with Tommy, taking it a stage further with Quadrophenia.
Recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2014 at London’s legendary Air Studios, the new incarnation of this classic rock opera is conducted by Robert Ziegler and features popular British tenor Alfie Boe on vocals, with Townshend himself on electric guitar and performing cameo vocal roles. Townshend will reprise his roles at the live world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 5 July 2015, alongside the RPO, Ziegler, Boe and other star guests.
The rock superstar began work on the project as part of his plan to leave a legacy of all his work arranged for orchestra as sheet music, for future generations to enjoy. Townshend hopes the new work will go on to become a regular part of the orchestral repertoire and boost attendance at classical concerts.
Alfie Boe, who sings the parts originally sung by Roger Daltrey, was also born in 1973 but has been listening to Quadrophenia for years. “It’s in my blood. I grew up on rock music and always had that fantasy of being a rock singer before I trained as an opera singer. I’ve always thought the classical voice can lend itself to this type of repertoire. It’s harder than opera, but thrilling to sing. The music is so full of excitement, positivity and strength – I wouldn’t separate it from a symphony by Beethoven or Mozart.”
This album has huge potential to cross-over to multiple fan-bases and target groups - the original version has sold an incredible 1.5 million copies world-wide
The Who has 5.7 million Facebook followers, 390,000 twitter followers, and Pete Townshend himself has 187,000 Facebook friends… a large and significant fan-base to work with
Recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in October 2014 at London’s legendary Air Studios, conducted by Robert Ziegler, and featuring popular Decca-signed British tenor Alfie Boe on vocals, with Townshend himself on electric guitar and performing cameo vocal roles
This new orchestral version will receive its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on July 5 2015, performed by the RPO, Ziegler, Townshend, Boe and other star guests, and promoted by U-Live
The concert mirrors the London launch of the 1972 orchestral version of The Who’s earlier rock opera ‘Tommy’, conceived and produced by Lou Reizner, with the London Symphony Orchestra, The English Chamber Choir, The Who, and an all-star cast
Townshend hopes the new work will go on to become a regular part of the orchestral repertoire and boost attendance at classical concerts:
“A lot of the major symphony orchestras in America are in trouble because their audience is getting old and the younger audiences prefer softer stuff, such as film soundtrack music. I think that ‘Quadrophenia’ would reinvigorate their audiences and bring in people who might not otherwise go to see a symphony orchestra perform without lights and fireworks and a movie screen.”