Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a delight. The biggest mystery is why it has taken five years for Jonathan Dove and April Di Angelis’s opera Flight to arrive on disc. Literature abounds with works based on the idea of people, more or less at random, assembled at some location and then forced to remain and interact for one reason or another—The Decameron, for example. In drama, the idea is the source of pieces as diverse as Grand Hotel and Il viaggio a Riems. In Flight, it is people assembling at an airport for a variety of eventual destinations, all trapped by the sudden onset of bad weather. Overseeing it all is the Controller, who, in American terms, would be the person who announces the flights, and the Refugee, who is living in the airport to avoid the
immigration officer. To them come Bill and Tina, a married couple attempting to resurrect their marriage on a romantic vacation, the Steward and Stewardess who are having an affair between jetting off to different places on different planes, the Older Woman who is waiting for the arrival of her younger fiancé from abroad, and the Minskman and the pregnant Minskwoman, who are about to go abroad as diplomats. The first act is devoted to the setup, introducing the passengers and their particular stories. The only one who leaves is the Minskman, who catches his flight after his wife refuses to leave. In the second act, complications ensue as couplings are arranged and rearranged. In the third act, following the unexpected return of the Minskman and the birth of his child, the newly wise passengers depart, leaving the Controller and the Refugee as we found them.
The music is wonderful. Dove’s idiom is tonal, with a significant nod to both the minimalists and to Leonard Bernstein’s unique way of handling the singing voice alone and in ensemble. It is a potent mix. His text setting is exquisite. Moreover, he has a very sure hand as to dramatic pacing and what is even more rare, embodying character in music. Arias and ensembles grow naturally out of the action; every one is a winner. To establish the outsider status of the Refugee, Dove casts him as a countertenor It must be said that Christopher Robson has some minor pitch problems in the live performance—not enough to seriously disfigure the performance, but noticeable nevertheless. The Controller is embodied by the magnificent Claron McFadden. The only reason I can fathom why this amazing singer is not as big a star as, say, Natalie Dessay is her fondness for new music. Actually casting is incredibly strong top to bottom. Gerry Magee, for example, is a famous Don Giovanni (he can be heard in the Chandos “Opera in English” recording) and Richard Van Allen has been a major singer for 30 years. Diction is crystal clear, as is dramatic intent. The very clear live recording captures a good deal of audience mirth, which only adds to the sense of a theatrical event. I would love to see the video presentation from which the recording is taken.
New operas as splendid as this one are not exactly thick on the ground. In truth, they never have been, but this is a major event. I suppose if it were to miraculously appear at the Met, we would get the foolishness of how it is not”big” enough for the house (witness the witless criticism of Floyd’s Susanah a few seasons back), but it is a natural for the more adventurous Lyric in Chicago or San Francisco. In any case, collectors now have it easily available on disc. Don’t miss it. Now can we perhaps have such recent Glyndebourne commissions as The Second Mrs. Kong and The Last Supper?
John Story, FANFARE Read less
Works on This Recording
Flight by Jonathan Dove
Claron McFadden (Soprano),
Christopher Robson (Countertenor),
Richard Coxen (Tenor),
Mary Plazas (Soprano),
Nuala Willis (Mezzo Soprano),
Steven Page (Bass Baritone),
Garry Magee (Baritone),
Anne Mason (Mezzo Soprano),
Ann [Mezzo Soprano] Taylor (Mezzo Soprano),
Richard Van Allan (Bass Baritone)
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Period: 20th Century
Written: by 1998; England
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