Friday, January 03, 2003


A new production of Sir Michael Tippett’s opera ‘King Priam’ will be presented in the Netherlands this Spring by the Nationale Reisopera, featuring David Wilson-Johnson in the title role. The premiere will be at Enschede on 14 March 2003, with a further eleven performances through to Maastricht on 15 April. The production will be designed and directed by Antony MacDonald and conducted by Micha Hamel (who introduced ‘The Rose Lake’ to the Netherlands in 2001 and recently conducted a series of concerts with the Netherlands Chamber Choir featuring some of Tippett’s shorter choral works). The Nationale Reisopera chorus will be joined by the Holland Symfonia.

The last performance of ‘King Priam’ was by the Vlaamse Opera in 1996, produced by Tom Cairns and Aletta Collins – essentially the revised Opera North production of 1995 that I was fortunate enough to see.

The work views a piece of Greek mythology through the prism of Jungian thought. It deals with the struggle for self-knowledge inherent in the struggle between impulses of war and peace. Given the threat of world events at the moment, a re-visiting of ‘Priam’ feels highly appropriate. Stylistically the opera (his second of five) marks a shift away from Tippett’s early lyricism to a more astringent, atonal, ascetic sound world. It is a tough but highly rewarding work that points us towards the impending complexity of ‘The Vision of St Augustine’ and the subsequent intricate imagery of ‘The Mask of Time’. As someone once remarked to me, “it is a late work, written comparatively early on!”

The 1995 Chandos CD re-issue of ‘King Priam’ is a transfer from the 1981 recording (CHAN 9406/7). David Atherton conducts the London Sinfonietta and LS Chorus in an intense performance with Norman Bailey, Heather Harper and Yvonne Minton.

The latest ‘Tippett in Focus’ Newsletter also reports that the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus will perform ‘A Child of Our Time’ at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on 7 February 2003, and at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow on the following night. The soloists will be: Lisa Milne (soprano), Louise Winter (mezzo-soprano), Mark Padmore (tenor), and Christopher Maltman (bass). The conductor will be Marin Alsop. Meirion Bowen will give pre-concert talks on both evenings.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Tippett’s birth in 1905. The Tippett website has now reciprocally linked to NewFrontEars, and both Meirion Bowen and Sally Groves of Schott (Tippett’s publishers) were gracious enough to send notes of acknowledgement of the previous Tippett article here (29 December 2002).



The anonymous Erg does the jazz links business regularly and promptly, as soon as he spots a useful article or piece of news. Ergjazz was signposted for NewFrontEars by Tim Postgate (, who heads up Guildwood Records in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Tim has a daily weblog, too. Busy guy. Check out his own links. On the continental scene the European Jazz Network is always worth a visit, too. It has an excellent research and news page. Then there’s the European Free Improvisation Pages, the excellent independent improv-based new music label Leo Records (who specialised in radical Russian jazz during the 1980s and ‘90s), the eclectic Paradigm Discs, Piotr Marek Jr’s Jazz Links, the US contemporary classical and jazz composers on New World Records, and (last but not least in this quick trawl) , an invaluable resource in new music: the ActuelleCD website. This provides access to more than 175 CDs, biographies, press reviews and audio excerpts from all artists united under the DAME: Ambiences Magnetiques banner. For more than ten years now, DAME has produced and distributed the most innovative musics in Canada, ranging from electronic, noise and improvisation to post-rock, modern poetry and jazz.

No comments: