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Gerald Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest, opera; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Adès

Album Summary

>Barry, Gerald : The Importance of Being Earnest, opera
Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

‘The world now has something rare: a new genuinely comic opera and maybe the most inventive Oscar Wilde opera since Richard Strauss's Salome more than a century ago.’ The Los Angeles Times Gerald Barry's riotous opera brings out the savagery beneath the genteel Edwardian manners of Wilde's play: its score includes gunshots, whistling and speaking from the orchestral players, marching boots, and the smashing of 40 dinner plates, while its characters – among them Lady Bracknell sung by a bass and Cecily by a stratospheric soprano – shout at each other through gales, quote Schiller's Ode to Joy (in German) and make polite conversation through megaphones. 'It’s all completely bonkers, but I went in grumping and came out grinning. What more can you ask?' The Telegraph

The Guardian, 25th September 2014
In the Barbican, the sheer size of the hall seemed to dilute the impact of Barry's fabulously inventive score, with its machine-gun delivery of great swathes of text, ricocheting instrumental lines, and surreal references...On disc, all those can be enjoyed, the sheer virtuosity with which Barry puts it all together appreciated.

The Times, 27th September 2014
Barry treats Wilde's words cavalierly, yet he presents an irresistible portrait of buttoned-up English stereotypes on the edge of madness, panic, rage and despair. Highlights are Alan Ewing's (bass) Lady Bracknell and Barbara Hannigan's Cecily.

Gramophone Magazine, October 2014
Barry magnifies the fizzing quality into a relentlessly high-wire act that has the audience relishing the stamina of the performers, here under the needle-sharp control of ringmaster-in-chief Thomas Ades.

Opera Now
The mind boggles as to how any singer can manage to memorise and execute Barry's fiendish vocal parts, but AdFs' cast more than rises to the challenge. It's a true ensemble effort, though if pushed to pick a stand-out performance, the pyrotechnics of soprano Barbara Hannigan as Cecily are pretty unbeatable.

Classical Music
Alan Ewing and especially Barbara Hannigan (in plate-smashingly good form) are superb, and conductor Thomas AdFs keeps everything moving along at a cracking pace. Buy it for your handbag.

BBC Music Magazine, January 2015
Surely this is not only the best operatic treatment of Oscar Wilde since Salome, but also one of the few absolutely essential operas of the last 20 years...This performances features at least three ideal incarnations: Barbara Hannigan's cut-glass Cecily, Peter Tantsits's spot-on Jack and Hilary Summers's true-contralto Miss Prism, who hits every note asked of her.

American Record Guide, March/April 2015
Oscar Wilde's Importance of Being Earnest is one of the funniest plays ever written and is generally recognized as one of the great comedies of English. In 2010 the Irish composer Gerald Barry did just that - with curious results. Barry adapted the Wilde play himself, leaving much of the original dialog but with a few cuts. He added very little of his own text. The result is a tight, well-constructed libretto that plays in less than an hour and a half. One thing is sure: a performance of this work requires a dedicated and skillful cast and lots of rehearsal. The recording is conducted by the composer Thomas Ades, and the cast is superb. I was particularly impressed by Hilary Summers, who handles both ends of Miss Prism's extreme range, and Barbara Hannigan, who actually sings those insanely high phrases of Cecily. The booklet contains the complete text, a synopsis, and an essay that tries to make sense of Barry's music.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Barbican Hall, London (04/24/2012); Birmingham (04/24/2012); Barbican Hall, London (04/26/2012); Birmingham (04/26/2012).


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Works Details

>Barry, Gerald : The Importance of Being Earnest, opera
  • Conductor: Thomas Adès
  • Ensemble: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
  • Notes: Barbican Hall, London (04/24/2012); Birmingham (04/24/2012); Barbican Hall, London (04/26/2012); Birmingham (04/26/2012)
  • Running Time: 72 min. 49 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Form: Opera/Operetta
  • Written: 2009-2010