Friday, February 14, 2003


Work: ‘Jane Eyre’
Composer: Michael Berkeley
Ensemble: Musical Theatre Wales
Conductor: Michael Rafferty
Performers: Andrew Slater, Natasha Marsh, etc.
Label: Chandos CHAN9983
Released: 1 September, 2002
CD: 1

Composer Michael Berkeley’s 70 minute opera based on the world famous novel handles a literary epic in a thoughtfully episodic, dreamlike way. It assumes a basic knowledge of the text and then re-paints some famous scenes in a completely fresh way – through the luminosity of song. The libretto is by David Malouf, who also provided the words for Berkeley's first opera, 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' (Rudyard Kipling) in 1993, Richard Meade's 'Mer de Glace' in 1991, and Patrick White's 'Voss' in 1978.

This recording is based on the world premiere at the Chelteham Festival just under three years ago. The Musical Theatre Wales Ensemble under the direction of Michael Rafferty offer a light, carefully constructed and almost translucently intricate instrumental texture against which the unfolding recitatif is laid. Berkeley’s sound world is anything but square: his modern sensibility is, however, both bittersweet and nuanced in its lyricism. Fine vocal performances and typically accomplished Chandos production make this a delightful work. For the curious there are five minute-long 'Jane Eyre' sound snatches (from a total of twenty tracks) on Amazon.

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