WORKS: Facing Goya
PERFORMER: Hilary Summers, Marie Angel, Winnie Bowe, Harry Nicoll, Omar Ebrahim; Michael Nyman Band/Michael Nyman
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-45342-2
Sympathy for Warner’s recent struggles is severely tested by the appearance of Facing Goya, which comes with the boast of being the first recording of the company’s new exclusive contract with Michael Nyman. Commercial desperation and artistic cynicism collide here, and though Nyman apparently has a considerable following, it is once again hard to spot the appeal of his meretricious music, amplified semi-pop that falls between every stool. His trademark cheap and cheerful style, based on numbingly repetitive rhythms and progressions which make the common chord truly common, is as much pop music for people who don’t like pop as modern music for people scared of modernism.
Facing Goya, Nyman’s first sizeable operatic project since The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat of 1986, was premiered in Santiago de Compostela two years ago. What chutzpah to attach such retrogressive music to a story inspired by the inventor of modern art, even if it takes the form of a thriller: Victoria Hardie’s time-travelling libretto follows an obsessive search for Goya’s missing skull and the eventual cloning of the artist. The performance, conducted by Nyman himself, may be ‘authentic’, but it is short on musical interest. A cast of the composer’s regular collaborators, led by the hooty-toned Hilary Summers, contributes all the forced, angular singing essential to his style. John Allison