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James MacMillan: Clemency, a chamber opera for five singers & string orchestra; Schubert: Hagar's Lament

Album Summary

>MacMillan, James : Clemency, chamber opera
Performers Conductor Ensemble Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Clemency, a chamber opera for five singers and string orchestra in one act; composed 2009-10 and the third operatic collaboration between composer James MacMillan and poet Michael Symmons Roberts to date - is a work exploring a central but enigmatic Old Testament episode. The composer has commented that Clemency is set in the present day and 'is not intended as an old Hollywood style Biblical drama. Abraham and Sarah are modern people who are visited by three strange but modern figures that, it turns out, have something terroristic about them. There is something of the ancient and the modern in the piece; the ancient, Biblical tale but also the kinds of thing people face today in many parts of the world.' For the first U.S. production and its world premiere recording, Boston Lyric Opera, with the approval of both composer and librettist, decided to introduce the figure of Hagar, servant to Sarah but also the mother of Abraham's first child, Ishmael. This is done by incorporating a version of Schubert's early song Hagar's Lament as a prelude to this opera, challenging us to measure the impact of our lives in a modern world that continues to be marked politically and spiritually by acts of mercy and acts of vengeance.

BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2014
Abraham is the firm, authoritative baritone David Kravitz, who grows in vocal stature as the action progresses...Christine Abraham's Sarah is strongly committed, though there's a certain straining for high notes...Clemency is scored for strings only, and conductor David Angus ekes plenty of trenchant detail from his Boston players.

International Record Review, December 2014
The wizardry familiar from many of MacMillan's works is much in evidence as the strangers inform the couple of the impending birth of Sarah's son...The Boston Lyric Opera string section plays with considerable virtuosity under Angus's firm direction. The recording, taken from three live performances, is excellent.

American Record Guide, March/April 2015
James MacMillan's Clemency (2009-10) is a chamber opera for five singers and string orchestra. The work recounts the story of the child Ishmael and the visit of Three Strangers to his aged parents Abraham and Sarah, whose now exiled handmaid, Hagar, is his actual mother. This is a peculiar addition to Macmillan's catalog, but I suppose it might be considered an entry in the Death of Klinghoffer sweepstakes.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, Boston, Massachusetts, (2013-02-06_2013-02-07&2013-).


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Works Details

>MacMillan, James : Clemency, chamber opera
  • Performers: Christine Abraham (Mezzo Soprano); Neal Ferreira; David Kravitz (Bass); Samuel Levine; David McFerrin; Michelle Trainor
  • Conductor: David Angus
  • Ensemble: Boston Lyric Opera Orchestra
  • Notes: Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (2013-02-06_2013-02-07&2013-)
  • Running Time: 1 min. 20 sec.
  • Period Time: Contemporary
  • Written: 2009-2010