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Alastair White: WOAD

Kelly Poukens (soprano), Suzy Vanderheiden (saxophone) (Métier)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
MSV 28617_white

Alastair White
Kelly Poukens (soprano), Suzy Vanderheiden (saxophone)
Métier MSV 28617   57:12 mins


Scottish composer Alastair White is developing an intriguing new sub-genre that he refers to as ‘fashion-opera’. This is much (much) more than fancy threads on stage: White – a PhD candidate and associate lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London – has a particular interest in the theory of contingency dialectics and new materialist philosophy. No, I’m not entirely sure what that entails either, except that its musical application is strangely captivating. WOAD follows on from WEAR and ROBE, although each chamber opera within the cycle is self contained. WOAD reimagines the Scottish myth of Tam Lin, underlining themes of transformation, adaptation and limitless metamorphosis. The compact ensemble heard in ROBE is further reduced to just soprano and saxophone here.

Kelly Poukens reprises a similar role to that of storyteller in ROBE, playing both Tam – in various guises – and narrator. As with ROBE, Poukens fully inhabits this complex score, trampolining fragmented melodies and lyrical quasi-arias (as heard in ‘Scene’). White’s intelligent use of the saxophone’s wide-ranging palette means that the scoring never feels under nourished. Saxophonist Suzy Vanderheiden handles the responsibility well, sensitively duetting with the vocal line in ‘The Light That’ and maintaining tension during the repetitive ‘Superposition’.


Claire Jackson