WORKS: A Night at the Chinese Opera
PERFORMER: Gwion Thomas, Michael Chance, Michael George; Scottish CO/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: D 060
Thirteen years after the premiere of A Night at the Chinese Opera, admirers of the lively-minded music of Judith Weir will need no reminding of her unique compositional gifts. Even so, they will be pleased to have on disc the first of her stage works, since it is not only among the most interesting recent additions to the genre, but also a rich source of sheer musical pleasure. Surpassing the mannerisms of post-modernism, its reflected styles, from Italian opera to ‘westernised’ Chinese music, are all of a piece with its brilliantly elaborated Yuan drama. Its cleverness, unlike that of some other contemporary operatic scores, is no addition but simply part of the act.
The recording is of a live 1999 performance that formed part of the BBC’s Sounding the Century project. Though the sound lacks the polish of a studio-based product, its immediacy is compelling, and conductor Andrew Parrott knows how Weir’s bright inventions fit jigsaw-like into the larger form. Baritone Gwion Thomas takes the leading role of the engineer Chao Lin. There’s both pathos and comedy in his story (the audience laughter is a bonus), while countertenor Michael Chance portrays a superbly sinister Military Governor. Nicholas Williams