Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Birth Of An Opera

"[Sir Michael] Tippett set his tale on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice when, according to ancient legends and Shakespeare, all kinds of mystical creatures are afoot. Clearly, he modeled one set of lovers, Mark and Jenifer, on the noble lovers Tamino and Pamina who undergo fiery trials in Mozart's "The Magic Flute.'' Similar parallels between Tippett's more down-to-earth Bella and Jack and Papageno and Papagena of "Flute" are easy to see. But Tippett's emphasis on each character's need to reconcile such opposing forces within themselves as darkness and light, masculine and feminine, force and gentleness tries some listeners' patience.

[Director Sir Peter] Hall takes a more relaxed approach in a director's note written for [Chicago Lyric Opera's] program. He sees the opera as "a kind of dream -- what may happen to a young man's mind the night before he marries. 'The Midsummer Marriage' is a journey to find love, a journey to find whether one is capable of marriage. It isn't easy to start explaining everything because it is about instinct and emotion.''

"This was Tippett's first full-scale opera," said Roger Pines, Lyric's dramaturg. "In 1929, he created a realization of a ballad opera from 1729. Then he wrote a folk song opera and did two musical plays for children. But especially after 'A Child of Our Time' [written in 1939-41] -- with the importance of the chorus, with everything else in that piece -- it was inevitable that he would write opera.''

Wynne Delacoma "Mystical creatures, lovers drift through 'Midsummer'[Preview to the Chicago Lyric Opera Production] Chicago Sun-Times November 13, 2005.

(And with many thanks to Charles T. Downey at for this preview and image.)

Sir Michael Tippett Midsummer Marriage Covent Garden Production, 2005

Photo credit: Royal Covent Garden Opera, London, U.K.


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