WORKS: Tobias and the Angel
PERFORMER: Omar Ebrahim, Hyacinth Nicholls, Darren Abrahams, James Laing, Kevin West, Maureen Braithwaite, Karina Lucas, Rodney Clarke; Young Vic Chorus & Orchestra/David Charles Abell
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10606
The Book of Tobit is one of those intriguing scriptures that didn’t quite make it into either the Jewish or the Christian canon. Perhaps the tale of a monster fish whose internal organs turn out to have healing properties was just too folkloric to be sacred, but it makes a fine story for an opera.
Jonathan Dove honours its Jewish folktale roots by making part of his nine-strong instrumental ensemble a traditional klezmer band. But on the whole the vocal style is in Dove’s recognisable voice and listener-friendly modemode – and nothing wrong with that.
While there are passages that suffer from the familiar problems when operas set modern English vernacular (is there no musically plausible way of setting the phrase ‘I don’t know’?), on the whole the vocal writing is fluent and memorably lyrical.
As a musical dramatist, one of Dove’s strengths is that he knows when to let the music take the back seat and allow us to concentrate on words and action. On disc, however, it isn’t easy to judge the success of the strategy.
Just listening it’s hard not to be reminded occasionally of Fiddler on the Roof (not in itself a problem) or Oliver! (which is not so good). It’s a spirited performance however, and excellently recorded. Stephen Johnson