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Harrison Birtwistle (b.1934): Gawain, opera / Marie Angel, Anne Howells, Francois Le Roux, John Tomlinson. Elgar Howarth, ROH

Album Summary

>Birtwistle, Harrison : Gawain, opera
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Birtwistle's fascination with myth and ritual has influenced many of his works and this opera, its libretto by David Harsent, is based on the Arthurian legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with a plot featuring castles, eerie nocturnal apparitions, evil magical powers, amorous entanglements and a singing decapitated head. This production of Gawain for the Royal Opera House, recorded by BBC Radio 3, was supported by the Arts Council of England, The Friends of Covent Garden, The John S Cohen Foundation and The Po-Shing Woo Charitable Foundation. It was originally released on Collins Classics.

Financial Times, 10th May 2014
Birtwistle's difficult vocal lines and ritualistic patterns need a high level of commitment from the listener: this is an opera best experienced with eyes as well as ears. But for those prepared to submit to its baleful orchestral sound and riddle-strewn tale, Howarth and his fine cast...provide a definitive experience.

Gramophone Magazine, August 2014
Tomlinson as the Green Knight has peerless authority and you can hear his every word...Francois Le Roux here, after a slow start, fleshes out the character of Gawain in Act 2 and becomes a worthy adversary.

BBC Music Magazine, October 2014
Tomlinson pulls off the feat magnificently. There's a deep, grainy quality to his voice that catches the sorrow and cynicism of the Green Knight perfectly...Another strength of this recording is the weirdly intense vocal sound of Marie Angel...As for the orchestral playing, it catches both the dark fatalistic quality of the score and its moments of beauty.

Opera Now
It's a listening experience that's not for the faint-hearted: from the first downbeat, Birtwistle's music pins you to the spot with its densely scored, dissonant harmonies and dramatic, sinewy vocal lines...The cast put in sterling efforts across the board, but it is Tomlinson's Green Knight/Bertilak that really carries the performance.

American Record Guide, July/August 2015
The orchestra is superb in its relentlessness, especially the terrifying tubas and brutal percussion. The sound of the Green Knight's ax is graphic. The recording, originally on Collins, production from 1994, is vivid and spacious. NMC's production, with the Green Knight's blood-spattered head adorning the cover, has the essentials, including an easy-to-read libretto.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (04/20/1994).


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Works Details

>Birtwistle, Harrison : Gawain, opera
  • Conductor: Elgar Howarth
  • Ensemble: Royal Opera House Orchestra
  • Running Time: 1 min. 17 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 1991