WORKS: Christophe Colomb
PERFORMER: Opera Sacra of Buffalo Orchestra & Chorus/Charles Peltz
CATALOGUE NO: 35 DDD (distr. New Note)
Honegger is an eclectic composer, whose repertoire extends across all the main musical genres, and beyond into areas such as film music. He composed Christophe Colomb in 1940 as a ‘jeu radiophonique’ for Radio Lausanne. He and the writer William Aguet dedicated the work to Milhaud and Paul Claudel, aware of their full-scale Columbus opera Christopher Colomb, produced in Berlin in 1930.
An hour long, the production tells of the political, physical and psychological struggles of the explorer. There are 17 short numbers; although in some the musical contribution is negligible, others have more substance. Honegger uses a large orchestra with solo and choral voices, and there are several spoken roles.
This American performance, given in English, brings Christophe Colomb before a wider public, but the work is unlikely to make a lasting impression as a result. The most successful feature is the security of the orchestral playing; but too often the music recedes well into the background once the actors’ voices enter. The whole performance lacks atmosphere, and at times the attempts to be dramatic induce memories of amateur dramatics in the village hall.
There is no doubt that Honegger’s score contains some fine and distinctive music, but alas it is poorly served here. Terry Barfoot