University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet; Sea Drift

08/25/2019 1:00 pm
08/25/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Going back to the beginnings of my tenure in this time-slot I have reserved the last Sunday in August for broadcast of one of the seven operas of Frederick Delius (1862-1934). I always program one of them at this juncture because I think the impressionistic musical style of Delius's operas is so evocative of the lazy, hazy end of summertime.

The greatest of Delius' operas is surely his fifth one, A Village Romeo and Juliet (1907). There have been a couple of really good stereo recordings of this work made in the later twentieth century. The definitive recorded interpretation, however, remains Sir Thomas Beecham's 1948 monaural one, long out of print but once again made available through EMI in compact disc format in its Classics/Beecham Edition series. Beecham was a personal friend of the composer. He championed Delius' music to the end of his life, and saw to it that Delius's operatic masterpiece was both performed onstage and recorded for posterity in EMI's studios. No one understood the nuances of the Delian style better than this eccentric English conductor. The sound quality of the old 78 RPM discs is remarkably good: state-of –the-art high fidelity for its time, in point of fact, enhanced by digital audio reprocessing.

You heard the Beecham Village Romeo twice before on this program on Sunday, August 23, 1993 and again on August 25, 2002. Beecham leads his own Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. Listen afterward for Beecham's recorded interpretation of Delius's choral masterpiece Sea Drift (1904), a setting of the poetry of Walt Whitman.