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Sullivan 'The Beauty Stone' on Chandos


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Author Topic: Sullivan 'The Beauty Stone' on Chandos  (Read 5863 times)
jimfin
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« Reply #15 on: September 30, 2013, 12:58:22 am »

I would agree strongly with everything Albion said (though my opinion of the music (not the ghastly libretti)) of The Contrabandista and The Chieftain is maybe a bit higher. I cannot wait for The Light of the World, though it's going to be a while before anyone plays it.

Yes, the BBC Rose of Persia was all right but hardly unsurpassable. That score deserves the popularity of the Gilbert works. And I would love to hear Haddon Hall done professionally. I hear that it has particularly rich orchestration, which an amateur society cannot really put across, which is also the case with the two operas Chandos has given us, Ivanhoe and BS.

When I was a teenager, I tended to assume (as mainstream publications will have you assume) that Sullivan's non-operatic music was very dull and Victorian, rather as I still find Stainer's Crucifixion, but actually it is mostly fun and is clearly the work of the same man. The Festival Te Deum is a masterpiece and enjoyment (and could do with a professional recording, or at least the BBC releasing its broadcast, which we are lucky enough to hear on here).
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« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2013, 06:57:40 am »

Albion mentions the discarded septet from Act Two of Sullivan's, THE ROSE OF PERSIA, presented in a concert by the Sullivan Society in 2006.  I have personally had the great pleasure now of being able to direct two full-scale stage productions of ROSE.  The first in 1990 at a time when performance material was so very scarce that we had to rely on making copies from just two, very old and battered vocal scores.  By the time of the second in 2009, performance material had become more plentiful and easily obtainable and I was able to include the discarded septet.  It is a delightful number and raises questions as to why it was omitted in the first place.  Unlike the discarded material from THE BEAUTY STONE, the ROSE septet never made it to the stage.  It could have been that the authors were conscious of the time element - ROSE is a long show in performance - although probably no longer that UTOPIA LIMITED.  Or it could be (more likely) that this septet immediately preceeded another septet ('Mother Hubbard'), and they did not want two septets one after the other.

The ROSE recording, currently on CPO, can certainly not be regarded as definitive and really does need to be superceeded by a new recording including the septet.

With regard to THE BEAUTY STONE, this recording really has been far too long in coming.  But it is here at last!!  I first saw BEAUTY STONE in 1996 (3 performances), musically complete (with the exception of the discarded music which had not resurfaced at that point) but with new dialogue by David Eden, thus retaining the very strong storyline, but ditching Pinero's dreadful prose.  It was quite clear at that time that, having given the music the chance to speak, here was an exceptional work - consequently I am impatient for the discs to be released.

Mention has been made of THE CHIEFTAIN and I would agree that it does contain some excellent music.  Attempts have been made over the years at re-writing the libretto, but to my mind, on both the occasions that I have heard the results, they are worse than Burnand's original and, to my mind, played as a period piece, the original version is more acceptable.  In other words, accepting Burnand as Burnand is far better than trying to improve on him.  Mention was also made of the amount of music from CONTRABANDISTA contained within Act One of CHIEFTAIN.  In fact, the first act is the longer musically and contains 11 numbers plus the introduction.  Of those 11 numbers 4 and the Finale are totally new whilst 'Hand of Fate' includes chorus.  If Inez' 'My parents were of great gentility' is replaced with the original 'Let others seek', that, too, gains a chorus.

However, my feeling on the whole matter of Sullivan is that he has been given a very raw deal over the last century or so and that the matter needs to be redressed.  Any good, professional recording of any of his work, is to be welcomed, and will, I am very sure, prove more than enjoyable.
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guest251
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« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2013, 03:37:19 pm »

Now available for download from www.theclassicalshop.net
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jimfin
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« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2013, 03:53:31 pm »

Interesting comments about the Sullivan. I would love to see BS done with David Eden's dialogue (which I have no copy of, so cannot judge), as I agree the story is strong, but the original dialogue dreadful. Yes, probably The Chieftain should be (occasionally) performed as it is (and more often just as a concert work). As a Sullivan geek, I would happily listen to a hybrid of the Contrabandista and the Chieftain, ie, Act I of the Chieftain, followed by Act II of the Contrabandista, then Act II of the Chieftain (the stories would still make sense, and no music would be repeated), but I know that this would not exactly improve the dramatic situation.
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Albion
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« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2013, 04:24:09 pm »

Now available for download from www.theclassicalshop.net

I've already pre-ordered the CD set, but I might just have to succumb to temptation (I think that's a foregone conclusion really) ...

http://www.theclassicalshop.net/Details.aspx?CatalogueNumber=CHAN%2010794M

 Wink


I would love to see BS done with David Eden's dialogue (which I have no copy of, so cannot judge), as I agree the story is strong, but the original dialogue dreadful.

I rather like the original dialogue, although there is too much of it for actual performance purposes. David Eden's 'Miracle Play' version can be accessed here - http://stdavidsplayers.sharepoint.com/Documents/beauty_stone_eden.pdf

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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
Albion
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Frederic Cowen (1852-1935)


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« Reply #20 on: October 01, 2013, 04:36:36 pm »

I've already pre-ordered the CD set, but I might just have to succumb to temptation (I think that's a foregone conclusion really) ...

 Wink

Yep, it certainly was - an evening of The Beauty Stone awaits!

 Grin
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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
Albion
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« Reply #21 on: October 01, 2013, 06:07:05 pm »

I've already pre-ordered the CD set, but I might just have to succumb to temptation (I think that's a foregone conclusion really) ...

 Wink

Yep, it certainly was - an evening of The Beauty Stone awaits!

 Grin

First listen is taking place now - one word ... wow! This is a major work in British operatic history, only half of which was revealed by the 1984 Prince Consort recording. There is much more 'character' in the singing - Elin Manahan Thomas' interpretation of Laine's Act 1 Prayer is something else.

Ivanhoe was Grammy-nominated, this one definitely deserves to win. The pacing is just right and the sound is magnificent - what a wonderful orchestrator Sullivan was. As with so many of his works, the orchestra is an active participant in the drama and it is wonderful to hear the score given the five-star treatment it so richly deserves.

 Smiley
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« Reply #22 on: October 02, 2013, 01:05:11 am »

The Chandos website says the CD is available already. In which case I'm wondering when my pre-ordered copies from the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society are going to be here! How exciting!
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« Reply #23 on: October 02, 2013, 04:01:08 pm »

The Chandos website says the CD is available already. In which case I'm wondering when my pre-ordered copies from the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society are going to be here! How exciting!

No, I'm afraid that the physical CD is still scheduled for November 4th: the note regarding availability from October 1st (somewhat misleadingly) refers to the download - the actual CD version will remain listed as 'out of stock' and without a price attached to it until release day.

 Sad

I did a lossless download as an 'interim' version.

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« Reply #24 on: October 03, 2013, 05:35:02 am »

Ah, thanks for that! I'll stop watching the postbox quite so closely for a few weeks!
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jimfin
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« Reply #25 on: October 04, 2013, 12:34:17 am »

Staging the Beauty Stone? A brave suggestion! But you are right: so many works work a lot better when performed as they were originally written, rather than "improved upon". Handel's operas are an excellent example, and I have always yearned to hear Purcell's so-called Semi-operas done with their original staging to give them context. I suspect 'The Fairy Queen' or 'King Arthur'  could work well. Back to the BS, it certainly has a strong story: the dialogue I find hard to read, but then it is not intended to be read, but heard, so I could be surprised. If you manage to persuade Covent Garden to put it on, I'll fly over specially to watch!
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« Reply #26 on: October 04, 2013, 05:06:35 pm »

If you manage to persuade Covent Garden to put it on, I'll fly over specially to watch!

I wouldn't hold your breath Sad  It's the kind of piece which Opera North would be well set up to stage, frankly?
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« Reply #27 on: November 08, 2013, 06:12:01 am »

I have now received and listened a few times to the CDs of The Beauty Stone, and it is certainly (a) a magnificent recording and (b) an even more impressive score than I had thought. The discarded trio in Act II Scene 2 makes the scene make a lot more sense, dramatically and musically, and the extra duet for Jacqueline and the Devil in the following scene does so too. I am still not sure whether the singer of Saida is strong enough: for me it's a belter of an emotional role and it seems too underplayed, but that is my only qualification. The singer of Laine has a particularly lovely voice. Overall it's a wonderful thing to have in one's possession.
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Albion
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« Reply #28 on: November 08, 2013, 04:43:52 pm »

More unenlightened thoughts from the ever-predictable Andrew Clements in The Guardian, giving (one senses rather grudgingly) three out of five stars:

Even at the height of their success together, Arthur Sullivan's partnership with WS Gilbert was by no means an exclusive one. Sullivan worked regularly with other librettists, and after the last of their collaborations on The Grand Duke, Sullivan turned to the Victorian playwright Arthur Pinero who, working with Joseph Carr, came up with his next text. That was The Beauty Stone, an "original romantic musical drama in three acts", which received its first performance at the Savoy theatre in 1898 but closed after 50 performances, and has hardly been heard of since. The plot, a mixture of magic and medieval chivalry set in Flanders, is just as preposterous as any in Sullivan's more famous operettas, but it lacks the crucial light touch in both the music and the words. It has never been recorded by professional singers before, and Rory Macdonald seems to have prepared with academic scrupulousness. With Toby Spence in the lead role of the Lord of Mirlemont, Elin Manahan Thomas as Laine, the plain girl who can magically transform herself into a beauty, and Alan Opie as the Devil, it's very strongly cast, too, but there's no sense of an important rediscovery here.


In terms of opera plots in general, the story is not preposterous by any means - it is merely tinged with elements of the supernatural, something else entirely. Clements wants to put Sullivan in the box marked 'Clowns who should have stuck to red noses and funny wigs', implying (here we go again) that he was only any good when setting Gilbert's comic ditties. This is, to anyone who knows The  Golden Legend, Ivanhoe or The Martyr of Antioch, the biggest load of tired-old-stereotyping cobblers. This recording is not only a rediscovery, it is a revelation.

 Roll Eyes

For more reliable, unbiased appreciations, see the following reviews -

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sullivan-Beauty-Macdonald-Manahan-Chandos/product-reviews/B00FMWCJPK/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1

 Wink Grin

For those of a romantic disposition, here is the beautiful castle of Merlemont, Philippeville, in Belgium -



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"A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it." (Sydney Grew, 1922)
jimfin
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« Reply #29 on: November 09, 2013, 01:25:50 am »

Thanks so much for that John. I have changed my mind completely about the plot: I used to assume the Beauty Stone was unstageable, but I think that if the dialogue were rewritten it could work fine. It's actually a rather wonderful story, with some of the deepest characters in any Sullivan opera, and the composer responded to that wonderfully. Saida is particularly touching: after years of misogynistic portrayals of ageing ladies in Gilbert, here he can show real sympathy to a woman whose charms are fading (while making her a bit of a bitch as well).

Love the photo too. I didn't realise there was a real Merlemont/Mirlemont.
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