Waters: Ca Ira

Waters: Ca Ira

by Bryn Terfel

If you had to vote for the aging rock star most likely to compose an opera, Roger Waters would probably place near the top of the poll. After all, his work with Pink Floyd -- especially but not exclusively The Wall -- had the combined musical and dramatic power that defined a…  See more details below


If you had to vote for the aging rock star most likely to compose an opera, Roger Waters would probably place near the top of the poll. After all, his work with Pink Floyd -- especially but not exclusively The Wall -- had the combined musical and dramatic power that defined a sort of "rock opera" in the 1970s. Ça ira, however, is a three-act opera without the rock, a pageant of Revolutionary France (including a detour to the Caribbean colonies) that impresses equally for its gripping storytelling and its absorbing music. Truth be told, there's as much a debt here to epic megamusicals like Les Misérables as there is to opera, though the voices and the rich orchestration do constantly allude to the more venerable genre. And Waters has recruited some great operatic voices for this recording: baritone Bryn Terfel, soprano Ying Huang, and tenor Paul Groves, each of whom takes on multiple roles, from revolutionary agitators to the king and queen. Terfel also portrays the Ringmaster, a narrator who comments on the action throughout, and his wonderfully characterized singing does much to propel the drama. Unabashedly melodic and emotional, Ça ira -- which takes its name from a song of the era, translated here as "There Is Hope" -- focuses on the early years of the Revolution, before the Terror, and thus remains optimistic about the possibilities of "Liberty, Fraternity, Equality." That's something that sets Ça ira apart from most operas: The soprano (Marie Antoinette) may be dead by the end of the evening, but the final bars are inspirational rather than tragic. Testifying to Waters's continued musical vitality and relevance, three decades after he explored the dark side of the moon, the new ambitions realized in Ça ira allow him to lead us toward the light of hope.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - William Ruhlmann
Since the CD jewel box carries a sticker reading, "From the creator of The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall, it is important to note at the outset that Roger Waters' Ça Ira is not a rock concept album or rock opera; indeed, it does not contain rock music at all. The music is best described as classical, played by a symphony orchestra and sung by opera singers. Nor does it contain an appearance by Waters as a performer. He is the composer, and he also co-produced the album. Ça Ira (the title "literally means 'it will go'" in French, notes Waters, though he provides the subtitle "There Is Hope") has been described as an opera, but, at least on record, it might better be called an oratorio. The difference between the two, of course, has to do with staging and theatrical content. Based on a libretto by French songwriter Etienne Roda-Gil (though written in English without any of his actual words), Ça Ira is set during the first phase of the French Revolution, from the storming of the Bastille in 1789, to the executions of King Louis XVI and his Queen, Marie Antoinette, in 1793. Although the stated purpose of the work is to celebrate the triumph of democracy over monarchy, the only distinct characters are the King and Queen. Otherwise, the major characters are abstract or generic. There is a narrator, called the Ringmaster (since the staging calls for a circus setting), and other characters include the Troublemaker and a Revolutionary Priest. In this recording, the character distinctions are blurred further by the reduced number of performers. Bryn Terfel, for example, sings the parts of the Ringmaster, the Troublemaker, and the King, and sometimes he goes from one part to another without a break. Three different choirs also appear, one of them a children's choir that sings in lower-class British accents. This provides one of the few ties to Waters' earlier work -- one can easily imagine the children suddenly breaking into a chorus of "We don't need no education" from "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." They don't, however. Like other pop and rock musicians who have turned to classical music, such as Paul McCartney and Billy Joel, Waters turns out to have a fairly traditional idea of the form. Perhaps in aspiring to legitimacy, he has written a work that harks back to the Romantic movement of the 18th century, music that in some ways grew out of the French Revolution. And Ça Ira is certainly a legitimate classical composition. Whether it justifies its intentions is another question, however. If, as annotator Nick Sedgwick points out, the early years of the Revolution have not been treated much in the arts, that may be because they involved so much turmoil and led directly not to liberty, but to the Reign of Terror. As Waters closes his work, he cannot help using the sound of a guillotine falling as a percussion device, and that means that if, as he says, there is hope, it must be only in the long-term sense.

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Product Details

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Related Subjects


Disc 2

  1. Ça Ira (There Is Hope), opera  - Roger Waters  - Terry Edwards  - Peter Gelb  - Paul Groves  - Ying Huang  - Ying Huang  -  London Voices  - Michael McCarthy  - Roxanne Slimak  - Bryn Terfel  - Bryn Terfel  - Roger Waters  - Rick Wentworth  - Rick Wentworth  - Jamie Bower  - Mark Fenwick  - Roy Gregory  -  Italia Conti Childrens Choir  -  Ismaël Lô  - Nadine Roda-Gil  - Nadine Roda-Gil  - Helen Russill  -  London Oratory Choir  - Mike McCarthy  - Etienne Roda-Gil

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Bryn Terfel   Primary Artist,Vocals,Brass Baritone
Ismaël Lô   Vocals
Roy Gregory   Children's Choirmaster
London Voices   Choir, Chorus
Mike McCarthy   Choir Master
Ying Huang   Vocals,Soprano (Vocal)
Rick Wentworth   Conductor
London Oratory Choir   Choir, Chorus
Jamie Bower   Vocals
Michael McCarthy   Choir Master
Italia Conti Childrens Choir   Children's Chorus
Helen Russill   Vocals
Paul Groves   Tenor (Vocal)
Terry Edwards   Choir Master

Technical Credits

Roger Waters   Composer,Producer,Choir Arrangement
Nick Griffiths   Engineer
Gavyn Wright   Orchestra Leader
Simon Rhodes   Engineer
Peter Gelb   Executive Producer
Roxanne Slimak   Artwork
Rick Wentworth   Producer,Choir Arrangement
Nick Wollage   Engineer
Stéphane Briand   Engineer
Etienne Roda-Gil   Librettist
David Patterson   Sound Effects
Nick Sedgwick   Liner Notes,Synopsis
Nick Woollage   Engineer
Nadine Roda-Gil   Librettist,Illustrations
Carey Sedgwick   Biographical Notes
David Nowack   Sound Effects
Mark Fenwick   Executive Producer

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