ALBUM TITLE: Weir: The Vanishing Bridegroom
WORKS: The Vanishing Bridegroom
PERFORMER: Ailish Tynan, Anna Stéphany, Andrew Tortise, Owen Gilhooly, Jonathan Lemalu; BBC Singers & Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
Premiered in 1990, Judith Weir’s remarkable second opera has waited for nearly a quarter of a century to be recorded. Fortunately this 2008 concert performance does more than justice to a work which, if anything, manages to surpass the deft brilliance of Weir’s earlier A Night at the Chinese Opera. A serious tour de force in technical and dramatic terms, The Vanishing Bridegroom brims with moments where the level of atmospheric storytelling is mesmerising.
Each of the three acts, ‘The Inheritance’, ‘The Disappearance’ and ‘The Stranger’, is based on a Scottish folk tale. A bridegroom, a husband, and a dubious suitor (the Devil) in turn vanish – in deference to the bride’s former lover, spirited away by fairies, or outwitted by a girl and a passing preacher. The whole sequence adds up to an ongoing portrait of a single family, depicted in Weir’s trademark sharp-focus tonal style, with one vivid scene after another deftly paced and intercut. Most of the main cast of five singers is required to take on a different role in each act; they switch between these excellently, with Martyn Brabbins securing a precise and incisive response from his BBC choral and orchestra forces. The one reservation, only minor, concerns some underpowered casting among the several smaller roles. This doesn’t detract from a memorable listening experience, enhanced by recorded sound whose perspective is natural and clear, with just the right touch of resonance. Malcolm Hayes