Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s Gothic opera The Mines of Sulphur is reminiscent of suspense thrillers from Edgar Allan Poe to Alfred Hitchcock. Love, longing, and dark as well as light comedy abound in this macabre tale of greed and retribution set in a haunted manor house in the West of England. The title of the tale, taken from Shakespeare’s Othello, refers to the theme of gradual corruption. The production from which this recording was taken was a smash hit at Glimmerglass Opera last summer (2004).
This is the work’s premiere recording.
The Mines of Sulphur will be performed by New York City Opera in autumn 2005,
on the 40th anniversary of its first staging.
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett is one of Britain’s most prolific composers, whose best-known works include the film scores for Four Weddings and a Funeral and Murder on the Orient Express. The gypsy Rosalind has tried to escape from the abusive landowner, Braxton, but is driven back to the isolated house by the winter weather. Her companions – Boconnion, an army deserter, and the tramp Tovey – stealthily enter the house intent on stealing Braxton’s jewels and other valuable possessions. Boconnion murders Braxton and while the three try on their newly acquired finery, there is the sound of a distant horn followed by a knock on the door. Sherrin, the leader of a troupe of travelling actors, enters seeking shelter for the group. Boconnion agrees to this request in exchange for the performance of a play. Sherrin chooses The Mines of Sulphur, a comedy about a wealthy antiquarian who selects a young wife as ‘the loveliest thing in [his] collection’. In the play, the young Haidee and the valet, Hugo, have an illicit affair, and upon discovery are about to kill the older husband. At this point the similarities between the play and reality are too much for Rosalind and Tovey and they stop the performance. One of the actors indicates that he knows Boconnion’s real identity and what has happened in the house. Bocconion draws a bayonet and moves threateningly towards the actors, intending to imprison them in the house and burn it down, in order to destroy all evidence of his crime. However, the actors escape leaving behind Jenny. Boconnion taunts Rosalind by kissing Jenny, who then explains that she has the plague. Rosalind, Boconnion and Tovey are left with the realisation that in fact they are the ones for whom there is no escape, and they pray in vain for mercy.
R E V I E W S
"Though just 28 when he composed this work, Sir Richard showed a sure grasp of dramatic pacing and an intuitive feeling for character. He confidently adapted the 12-tone idiom to his distinctive musical and dramatic aims, reining in a wayward Bergian language with ravishing moments of tonal mooring. The vocal writing shifts naturally between sputtered outbursts and ruminative lyricism.
The excellent cast is headed by Brandon Jovanovich (Boconnion), Kristopher Irmiter (Braxton), Beth Clayton (Rosalind) and James Maddalena (Tovey). Mr. Robertson conducts a vividly colored and inexorable performance."
- Anthony Tommasini, NEW YORK TIMES
"The atmosphere is threatening and dark, and the score effectively conveys that sense of oppression, just leavening its essentially serial language (Bennett had studied with Boulez in Paris in the 1950s) with material much closer to Britten and Henze. That makes the vocal lines smoothly singable, while the orchestral writing has the vividness and sleek assurance so familiar from Bennett's later music; it is a well-made opera with a clear dramatic shape...Certainly, The Mines doesn't deserve the neglect it has suffered for more than a quarter of a century: this performance shows it can work on stage, and pack a real dramatic punch." - Guardian Unlimited
Works on This Recording
The Mines of Sulphur by Richard Rodney Bennett
Beth Clayton (Mezzo Soprano),
Dorothy Bryne (Mezzo Soprano),
Brandon Jovanovich (Tenor),
James Maddalena (Baritone),
Kristopher Irmiter (Bass Baritone),
Brian Anderson (Tenor),
Michael Todd Simpson (Baritone),
Caroline Worra (Soprano),
Andrew Gorell (Spoken Vocals)
Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Date of Recording: 08/2004
Venue: Live Alice Busch Opera Theater, Cooperstown,
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