WORKS: Blond Eckbert
PERFORMER: Nicholas Folwell, Anne-Marie Owens, Nerys Jones, Christopher Ventris; ENO Orchestra & Chorus/Sian Edwards
CATALOGUE NO: 14612 DDD
Despite its linear narrative (absent in A Night at the Chinese Opera and The Vanishing Bridegroom), uncomplicated story-line and fast-moving action, Blond Eckbert is the most enigmatic of Judith Weir’s three full-scale operas. Although Ludwig Tieck is not widely read by English-speaking readers these days, one can understand Weir’s desire to turn his short story into an opera. She no doubt found its folk-tale basis and stock characters exactly suited to her operatic aesthetic, one which involves making the music a necessary component of the total experience rather than simply an illustration of what is present in the text already.
At its premiere by English National Opera last year, Blond Eckbert benefited from a witty and inventive staging which almost threatened to usurp the music. This CD is especially welcome, then, for it confirms what a subtle and inventive score this is, artfully paced and sparing of gesture. With characteristic understatement the opera’s moment of revelation is treated almost casually, as the music gathers its own inexorable momentum. Weir’s individual way with words comes over especially well on this recording, with a clarity impossible to attain at the Coliseum. Warmly recommended. Antony Bye