- A Night At The Chinese Opera, opera
Judith Weir: A Night at the Chinese Operaby Andrew Parrott
British composer Judith Weir has garnered much acclaim in many musical genres, but perhaps most notably for her operas, including Blond Eckbert and The Vanishing Bridegroom, in addition to the work recorded here for the first time, A Night at the Chinese Opera (1987). Weir is skilful at crafting powerful pieces of music theater, devising intriguing scenarios and writing her own librettos. Often attracted by folktales or ancient sagas, she turns here to a 14th-century Chinese play, The Chao Family Orphan, which she sets as a "play-within-a-play" that reflects and parallels the main narrative. Rich with comic -- even farcical -- elements, the opera nevertheless bears a serious message about authoritarianism, protest, and art. Musically, recognizable allusions to Chinese opera are interlaced with sounds that sometimes bear the imprint of Britten, Stravinsky, or Messiaen, but Weir's originality is never in question. Unique combinations such as the duets for countertenor and bass attest to this, as does the striking range of vocal writing, from rhythmic speech to full aria to elaborate ensembles, all of which allow full comprehension of the words. Leading the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in this live recording from 1999, Andrew Parrott steps outside of the Renaissance and Baroque repertoire for which he is best known. The cast boasts few familiar names (aside from countertenor Michael Chance), but they are an eager and effective group of mostly young singers. (Going into character as General Tu-an-Ku in the Act II play-within-a-play, soprano Frances Lynch sounds oddly like Icelandic pop diva Björk.) All told, Weir's first full-length opera is evidence that she is a force to be reckoned with in contemporary music theater, and it makes one eager to experience the opera in a fully staged production.
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Performance CreditsAndrew Parrott Primary Artist
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