Berkeley - The One-Act Operas: A Dinner Engagement, Castaway, Ruth | Lyrita REAM2144

Berkeley - The One-Act Operas: A Dinner Engagement, Castaway, Ruth

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Label: Lyrita

Cat No: REAM2144

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 3

Genre: Opera

Release Date: 1st October 2021

Contents

Artists

Norman Lumsden (bass)
Marjory Westbury (soprano)
Cynthia Glover (soprano)
Pamela Bowden (contralto)
Johanna Peters (contralto)
Edward Darling (tenor)
Derek Williamson (tenor)
Elisabeth Robinson (soprano)
Soo-Bee Lee (soprano)
Alfreda Hodgson (contralto)
Peter Pears (tenor)
Thomas Hemsley (baritone)
Ronald Harvi (narrator)
Geoffrey Chard (baritone)
Patricia Clark (soprano)
Jean Allister (mezzo-soprano)
James Atkins (bass)
Malcolm Rivers (bass)
Kenneth MacDonald (tenor)
BBC Northern Singers
English Opera Group Chorus
BBC Northern Orchestra
BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra
English Chamber Orchestra

Conductors

Maurice Handford
Steuart Bedford
Meredith Davies

Works

Berkeley, Lennox

A Dinner Engagement, op.45
Castaway, op.68
Ruth, op.50

Artists

Norman Lumsden (bass)
Marjory Westbury (soprano)
Cynthia Glover (soprano)
Pamela Bowden (contralto)
Johanna Peters (contralto)
Edward Darling (tenor)
Derek Williamson (tenor)
Elisabeth Robinson (soprano)
Soo-Bee Lee (soprano)
Alfreda Hodgson (contralto)
Peter Pears (tenor)
Thomas Hemsley (baritone)
Ronald Harvi (narrator)
Geoffrey Chard (baritone)
Patricia Clark (soprano)
Jean Allister (mezzo-soprano)
James Atkins (bass)
Malcolm Rivers (bass)
Kenneth MacDonald (tenor)
BBC Northern Singers
English Opera Group Chorus
BBC Northern Orchestra
BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra
English Chamber Orchestra

Conductors

Maurice Handford
Steuart Bedford
Meredith Davies

About

Berkeley’s first opera, Nelson, was put on at Sadler’s Wells in 1954. The others were performed by the English Opera Group which had been founded by the young Benjamin Britten, Joan Cross, Eric Crozier and Peter Pears in 1946. In the same year as the Nelson premiere Berkeley’s first one-acter, A Dinner Engagement, featured at Aldeburgh. Aldeburgh was also the scene of Ruth in 1956 and Castaway in 1967. Each work inhabits its own world, and each finds Berkeley’s musical imagination delivering new sounds to match the drama.

Of the three works, A Dinner Engagement is without doubt the most widely performed. The comedy characters and rapid-fire delivery have proven popular with audiences worldwide in venues that included Sao Paulo, Vermont, New York, London, Oxford, Sydney, Perth and Halifax Nova Scotia. The simple story, told in ‘real’ time requires only seven principals and no chorus. An impoverished Earl and Countess are preparing a meal for the visiting Grand Duchess of Monteblanco and her son, Prince Phillippe. They hope their daughter will become the Prince’s bride. As their guests arrive disaster threatens from every direction – the food is burnt the butcher’s boy arrives noisily demanding payment, they try with limited success to control the eccentricities of their domestic help, and are forced to plead with their recalcitrant daughter – nonetheless, as with all good farces, the plan works out in the end.

The libretto of the biblical drama, Ruth, was written by Eric Crozier, Britten’s long-time collaborator. He was both librettist and theatre director having directed Peter Grimes at Sadler's Wells in 1945. He was also responsible for the words of Albert Herring, Billy Budd, The Little Sweep and the ‘Saint Nicolas’ cantata. For this recording a notable cast includes Alfreda Hodgson, alongside Peter Pears and Thomas Hemsley, who reprise the roles they created in opera’s 1956 premiere.

The final opera, Castaway, has fared the least well – this recoding, taken by the BBC during the Aldeburgh premiere, is unique - no studio recording has yet been made. At first sight Castaway appears to be a serious retelling of the Homeric legend, yet the librettist, Paul Dehn (also responsible for the earlier A Dinner Engagement), has peppered the text with darkly comic humour. Dehn knew and loved Homer’s Odyssey, and his intention in Castaway was to send up the romantic story of the shipwrecked hero's arrival, naked and incognito, on the shores of Ischia, where Princess Nausicaa falls in love with him ’till she realises he’s the fabled Odysseus and unavailable. The comedy should not come as a surprise: the composer, in the score, explicitly ‘pairs’ this opera as a companion piece to A Dinner Engagement.

Casts:

A Dinner Engagement
- The Earl of Dunmow: Norman Lumsden (bass)
- The Countess of Dunmow: Marjory Westbury (soprano)
- Susan, their daughter: Cynthia Glover (soprano)
- Mrs Kneebone, a hired help: Pamela Bowden (contralto)
- H.R.H. The Grand Duchess: Johanna Peters (contralto)
- H.R.H. Prince Philippe: Edward Darling (tenor)
- An Errand Boy: Derek Williamson (tenor)

Ruth
- Naomi, a widow: Elisabeth Robinson (soprano)
- Orpah, her daughter-in-law: Soo-Bee Lee (soprano)
- Ruth, her daughter-in-law: Alfreda Hodgson (contralto)
- Boaz, a landowner: Peter Pears (tenor)
- Head Reaper: Thomas Hemsley (baritone)
- Narrator: Ronald Harvi

Castaway
- Odysseus: Geoffrey Chard (baritone)
- Nausicaa, princess of Scheria: Patricia Clark (soprano)
- Queen Arete, her mother: Jean Allister (mezzo-soprano)
- King Alcinous, Nausicaa’s father: James Atkins (bass)
- Laodamas, her brother: Malcolm Rivers (bass)
- Demodocus, a blind minstrel: Kenneth MacDonald (tenor)

Broadcast 5 June 1966 (A Dinner Engagement), 10 June 1967 (Castaway, live), 18 August 1968 (Ruth)

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