HomeOperaconductor John Andrews chats about Lampe's The Dragon of Wantley, Gilbert &...

conductor John Andrews chats about Lampe’s The Dragon of Wantley, Gilbert & Sullivan and extra


Lampe: The Dragon of Wantley - recording sessions, John Andrews (Photo Matthew Johnson)
Lampe: The Dragon of Wantley – recording classes, John Andrews (Picture Matthew Johnson)

The conductor John Andrews has had moderately a Gilbert and Sullivan Summer season. He carried out The Yeomen of the Guard at The Grange Competition, The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe and Utopia Ltd for the Nationwide Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Firm in Buxton, and The Mikado for Charles Court docket Opera in Harrogate. And on disc, John’s Sullivan with out Gilbert explorations proceed with the discharge of Sullivan’s 1864 ballet, L’Île Enchantée with the BBC Live performance Orchestra on Dutton Epoch. Additionally on disc, John has recorded a piece that he sees as being, in some ways, a precursor to the Savoy Opera, John Frederick Lampe’s Handelian parody, The Dragon of Wantley, on Resonus Classics with the Brook Road Band, Mary Bevan, Catherine Carby, Mark Wilde, and John Savournin [see my review].

Lampe: The Dragon of Wantley - Resonus Classics


Written within the 1730s, The Dragon of Wantley options finely Handelian-style music written by a composer who additionally performed the bassoon in Handel’s orchestra, allied to a loopy story that got here from a Seventeenth-century broadside ballad, a few dragon ravaging Yorkshire and it being vanquished, finally, by an unlikely beer-swilling hero. 

The opera is just not fairly unknown, however it’s actually nowhere close to as in style because it deserves to be, a indisputable fact that John finds considerably puzzling. Many musicians learn about it, and he has had loads of conversations with musicians who’ve carried out it and have pleased reminiscences of it, however by some means performances stay largely in universities and on Summer season programs, although Peter Holman toured a manufacturing within the late Nineteen Seventies.

Nevertheless it deserves to be extra well-known, and it’s a extremely appropriate piece for contemporary efficiency, that includes a small solid and good music, allied to the loopy plot. John sees it as representing a convention of music that we now have largely forgotten. That of the English composers writing for the stage similtaneously Handel, names reminiscent of Thomas Arne. And we do not fairly know the place to put the music.

The Dragon of Wantley, in some ways, seems ahead to each pantomime and to Gilbert & Sullivan, however the music is of the varsity of Handel. John factors out that we now have come to just accept and perceive Shakespeare’s middle-period comedies, with their lack of stomach laughs and the steadiness between humorous and critical, however that the 18th-century English musical custom that has this mixture of humorous and critical is much less properly understood, and a few of Handel’s later works reminiscent of Serse and Partenope have comparable issues for contemporary audiences. 

The way in which The Dragon of Wantley combines humour with refined music is in some ways near Gilbert & Sullivan’s operas. John describes Lampe’s music as having an astonishing degree of sophistication, while the libretto options low comedy and satire alongside extra critical components. He does wonder if persons are utterly comfy with the thought of mocking Handel’s music. The factor on the whole concerning the 18th century is that we overlook how a lot folks did chortle. 

Lampe: The Dragon of Wantley - recording sessions, John Andrews, John Savournin, Mary Bevan, Catherine Carby, the Brook Street Band (Photo Matthew Johnson)
Lampe: The Dragon of Wantley – recording classes, John Andrews, John Savournin, Mary Bevan, Catherine Carby, the Brook Road Band (Picture Matthew Johnson)

The work additionally seems again to the custom of Purcell and post-Restoration theatre. While the work of playwrights like Congreve had vanished from 18th-century theatre, Thomas Arne would set Congreve’s libretto The Judgement of Paris [which John and the Brook Street Band recorded in 2019, see my review] shortly after The Dragon of Wantley was written, and each works appear to hyperlink 18th-century music theatre with post-Restoration theatre.

The work does even have challenges for modern performers. The usage of the Da Capo aria is difficult for administrators, the plot doesn’t transfer a lot throughout the aria which is more durable to deal with in comedy. Additionally, administrators want to decide on a model of the opera. Within the 18th century, all operas have been fairly plastic, and John’s recording is a conflation of the 2 surviving variations. Although he factors out that we do not know whether or not there weren’t additional modifications to the piece as properly. For us, the rating of an opera is the ultimate, definitive model however within the 18th century it was a short lived staging submit; at any time, the rating utilized to this solid and this theatre. 

Nearly actually, when The Dragon of Wantley was toured within the 18th century it was carried out closely reduce, and one of many surviving variations displays this. All because of this a contemporary director must make numerous choices concerning the work. But the work has resonance for modern-day performers, the jokes really feel present. As with all good satire, it sits within the second it was written however continues to land with folks.

Gilbert & Sullivan: The Yeomen of the Guard - The Grange Festival (Photo Simon Anand)
Gilbert & Sullivan: The Yeomen of the Guard – The Grange Competition (Picture Simon Anand)

Having recorded The Dragon of Wantley in September final 12 months, it’s maybe apt that John went on to spend a lot time with Gilbert & Sullivan this 12 months. He got here to the Savoy Operas contemporary as a conductor, he didn’t develop up with G&S and didn’t know the operas. Additionally, he has completed numerous Sullivan with out Gilbert (his recording of L’Île Enchantée is the most recent in a sequence of recordings of Sullivan for Dutton Epoch) and has additionally recorded works by Gilbert created with composers apart from Sullivan, reminiscent of Cellier’s The Mountebanks [see my review]. So, he involves G&S from these completely different angles, in addition to from a familiarity with the operas of Donizetti and Rossini that had a giant affect on Sullivan’s music.

In addition to conducting The Pirates of Penzance and Iolanthe in Buxton, John additionally carried out the late, and barely carried out operetta Utopia Ltd. That is the penultimate work that Gilbert and Sullivan wrote  collectively, and it comes 4 years after The Gondoliers, years by which the 2 had had a critical argument. For John, the music is superb, it’s a stunning rating revealing Sullivan on the peak of his inventive powers, and it makes use of a barely bigger orchestra which ends up in a richer sound. However by 1893, John doesn’t suppose Gilbert and Sullivan have been working properly sufficient as a crew, the sense of widespread goal and route is just not as robust as within the earlier works. 

For the performances in Buxton, director Jeff Clarke had edited the dialogue and the primary act lasted round 1 hour and 20 minutes, however below Sullivan, this act lasted an hour and three-quarters. There was a whole lot of dialogue, with a whole lot of scenes which might be there for his or her satirical potential, however which don’t lock into the story, and it’s nearly shifting in direction of a sketch present. The larger-scale drama is weak, so characters are introduced in but don’t contribute.

Gilbert & Sullivan: Utopia Ltd - National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company(Photo Charles Smith)
Gilbert & Sullivan: Utopia Ltd – Nationwide Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Firm(Picture Charles Smith)

It’s a superb work however requires inventive dealing with. John feels that performing Utopia Ltd was moderately like doing a primary recording of a uncommon opera, you are feeling that it’s important to do it faithfully as a result of it’s so not often carried out. But is doing the work faithfully, the easiest way to do it? In Buxton, that they had a superb manufacturing and it sounded good, however there’s the chance to current the work in a radically reordered type.

Sullivan’s grand opera Ivanhoe (written in 1891, between The Yeomen of the Guard and The Gondoliers) is one other opera the place there’s a case for not being overly trustworthy when performing the work. That is notably true of the construction, which is moderately static, and the work as written is big and solely an extremely well-resourced theatre may contemplate performing it. John sees it as a candidate for remembering to take a look at a piece and contemplating rethinking the best way it’s introduced.

He factors out that for a lot of composers, the rating is a piece in progress. You solely have to return to Handel and see the modifications he made for every revival. However that is arduous to do as soon as the composer is useless. This isn’t solely rational, however an emotional response. As a result of the composer is just not there to speak to, we are likely to freeze the rating in place. John feels that it’s important to put your self within the place of a conductor, say, engaged on Sullivan’s rating while the composer is just not in a position to be current. That’s the mindset that he goals for.

Gilbert & Sullivan: Iolanthe - National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company(Photo Charles Smith)
Gilbert & Sullivan: Iolanthe – Nationwide Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Firm (Picture Charles Smith)

Of the works he carried out this Summer season, John’s favorite is The Yeomen of the Guard, a piece that he first did 25 years in the past. It’s a rating of subtlety and class, and the best way that the characters develop is highly effective, with the dramatic journey of Jack Level and Elsie Maynard being a working example. And John discovered that working with the director Christopher Luscombe on the dialogue introduced out layers of subtlety. Additionally, it was good to have the total Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra within the pit, as too typically Sullivan’s music is completed with a small band. In The Yeomen of the Guard, this additionally helped to deliver out the Wagnerian homages within the music. However all of the G&S operas have issues to like about them. For John, Iolanthe is among the nice British operas of the nineteenth century. It delivers an actual emotional punch, and he wonders why it’s not completed in opera homes extra.

Sullivan’s 1864 ballet (written seven years earlier than his first collaboration with Gilbert), L’Île Enchantée (which John has simply recorded for Dutton Epoch) was written as a divertissement for Bellini’s La sonnammbula at Covent Backyard. On the time, it was customary follow for operas to have curtain raisers; Victorian concepts of a full night’s leisure have been moderately completely different from ours. No choreographer these days would reproduce the ballet within the authentic narrative, however the rating is wonderful and showcases Sullivan’s lyrical aspect. Usually his theatre and instrumental music exhibit lengthy lyrical strains, and the ballet is a powerful rating, demonstrating his mastery of orchestral colors. The piece additionally has a powerful emotional trajectory, and its pacing is assured.

Arthur Sullivan: L'Île Enchantée - recorrding session, John Andrews, BBC Concert Orchestra (Photo Lewis Foreman)
Arthur Sullivan: L’Île Enchantée – recorrding session, John Andrews, BBC Live performance Orchestra (Picture Lewis Foreman)

John’s recordings of Sullivan have included Haddon Corridor [see my review], The Gentle of the World [see my review], incidental music to Macbeth and The Tempest [see my review]. To return is John’s recording of Sullivan’s cantata The Martyr of Antioch, which premiered on the Leeds Triennial Competition in 1880. Curiously there’s each an oratorio model and a model for the stage. John was presupposed to report the work in 2021, however this needed to be postponed and it’s now again within the schedules. John finds the work an attention-grabbing discovery and one thing fairly completely different. It’s later Sullivan (it comes between The Pirates of Penzance and Endurance) and includes a dying scene, it’s redolent of the excessive Romantic opera that Sullivan knew, and it showcases Sullivan as a composer of a extremely dramatic oratorio. Additionally deliberate is a recording of Sullivan’s The Chieftain, his 1894 re-working of his early operetta The Contrabandista.

Different work developing features a disc of piano concertos, together with a brand new one by Errollyn Wallen plus works by Lutyens and Maconchy. This recording was initially deliberate for 2020 and is lastly taking place. He additionally has a disc of Poulenc deliberate with the Manchester Camerata, recording works for voices and chamber orchestra. In January 2023, John will likely be recording Ethel Smyth’s second opera, Der Wald. Written between 1899 and 1902 and premiered in 1902 at Königliches Opernhaus in Berlin (now referred to as the Staatsoper Unter den Linden), it is a one-act work that John describes as 65 minutes of emotional turmoil. Not like The Wreckers [which was performed at Glyndebourne this year, see my review] which is in three acts and lengthy, Der Wald is much extra compact, however it has the identical type of fabulous music. Critics on the time described Der Wald as Wagnerian, however this merely is just not true. There are a whole lot of late nineteenth century influences within the music and Wagner is only one of them. In any case, she knew Tchaikovsky and he suggested her to jot down operas.

John Andrews (Photo Jane Stokes)
John Andrews (Picture Jane Stokes)

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