Poul Ruders: Tjenerindens fortælling (The Handmaid's Tale)

Poul Ruders: Tjenerindens fortælling (The Handmaid's Tale)

by Michael Schønwandt
     
 

Opera enters the 21st century alive and well with Danish composer Poul Ruders's adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel The Handmaids Tale. Atwood's compelling narrative (also made into a film in 1990) is a dystopian vision of life after a fundamentalist Christian uprising transforms the United States into a repressive theocracy.See more details below

Overview

Opera enters the 21st century alive and well with Danish composer Poul Ruders's adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel The Handmaids Tale. Atwood's compelling narrative (also made into a film in 1990) is a dystopian vision of life after a fundamentalist Christian uprising transforms the United States into a repressive theocracy. Women are forbidden to read, write, or work; many, including the heroine, Offred, are "Handmaids" -- vessels for procreation. In transforming the novel for the stage, Ruders and his librettist, Paul Bentley, have arrived at some strikingly dramatic solutions to a tale that might seem too didactic to work as opera. They focus on the plight of Offred, juxtaposing the strange rituals of her oppressed life with a series of flashbacks to the "Time Before," where a different singer portrays the younger character with her husband and daughter, later lost to her. This flashback structure is part of what Ruders refers to when he says he wanted to compose Handmaid's Tale as if he were directing a film, although it transcends cinematic realism in his hands. For example, the two Offreds, even though they are separated in time, sing a highly emotional duet that is one of the opera's highlights. Mezzo-soprano Marianne Rørholm gives a powerful performance in the demanding title role; also impressive is the maniacal coloratura of Anne Margrethe Dahl as the "Aunt" in charge of re-educating the Handmaids. This recording also features the great Danish bass Aage Haugland in one of his final performances before his untimely death. The opera is sung in Danish, whereas the story would seem to demand English, but still, the recording -- captured live during the opera's premiere production at the Royal Danish Theatre in March 2000 -- offers a vivid rendition of Ruders's expressive, clever and sometimes surreal score.

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Editorial Reviews

Gramophone - Michael Oliver
Some of the more monstrous inhabitants of this nightmare world are portrayed in vocal lines that go to extremes, but far more often the writing for voice is idiomatically singable. The cast, among whom there is not a weak link, sing their hearts out, and Michael Schønwandt conveys the kaleidoscopic colours of Ruders' score with remarkable clarity; the recording is first-class.
BBC Music Magazine
[This] recording of The Handmaid's Tale is taken from the premiere in Copenhagen in March [2000]. Here, Paul Bentley's libretto is a very careful filleting of Margaret Atwood's novel, and the timeshifts of this futuristic, feminist story are neatly preserved. Ruder's score, by turns sombre, intense and blamelessly diatonic, is highly wrought... The whole work has an integrity and a real operatic purpose that are impressive.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/16/2001
Label:
Marco Polo
UPC:
0730099986526
catalogNumber:
8224165-66

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. The Handmaid's Tale, opera  - Poul Ruders  - Poul Ruders  - Anne Margrethe Dahl  - Willy Dahnhardt  - Poul Elming  - Elisabeth Halling  - Kari Hamnøy  - Kaare Hansen  - Aage Haugland  - Gert Henning-Jensen  - John Larsen  - Lise-Lotte Nielsen  - Marianne Rørholm  -  Royal Danish Orchestra  - Michael Schønwandt  - Andrew Wise  -  Royal Danish Opera Chorus  - Paul Bentley  - Pia Hansen  - Uffe Henriksen  - Susanne Resmark

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