ALBUM TITLE: Eötvös: Love and Other Demons
WORKS: Love and Other Demons
PERFORMER: Allison Bell. Nathan Gunn, Mats Almgren, Felicity Palmer, Jean Rigby, Marietta Simpson, Robert Brubaker, John Graham-Hall; Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Vladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: GFOCD 020-08
For a piece set in 18th-century Latin America, dealing with forbidden love, religious fervour and the war between Christianity and paganism, Peter Eötvös’s fifth full-length opera is surprisingly lacking in heat. But the music is brilliantly luminous. His approach to the novella by Gabriel García Márquez on which the Glyndebourne co-commission was based seems inordinately forensic; and although Eötvös conceived a lot of the choral writing first – he enjoyed the luxury of knowing the singers in advance and supposedly wrote to their strengths – much of the text is dispiritingly dogged in its pacing.
The ear is instead drawn to the orchestra, which is divided antiphonally with engaging results. Just as the libretto moves between English, Latin, Spanish and Yoruba, so Eötvös’s musical language references Africa as mediated through the ears of Spanish colonists, Catholic church music and Armenian melisma. But these elements are fused into a glittering score that is clear and precise, wonderfully moulded by Vladimir Jurowski and incandescently played by the LPO in this recording of the premiere performance. Indeed it would be hard to imagine a better ‘baptism’ for the work. In the pivotal role of Sierva María, soprano Allison Bell invests the stratosphere-defying coloratura with heart-stopping defiance and pathos, a telling counterpoint to baritone Nathan Gunn’s lyrical Priest whose love for her mirrors Sierva’s own ‘possession’. Inevitably the recorded balance isn’t perfect, but the sound serves an operatic vision that thrives on orchestral energy.