University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Thomson: Lord Byron

02/23/2020 1:00 pm
02/23/2020 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

In the course of nigh on four decades of opera broadcasting I have aired recordings of Virgil Thomson's Four saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947) more than once, most recently the 2016 BMOP Sound recording of Four Saints on Sunday, November 24th of last year, with Gil Rose conducting the singing and playing resources of his Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Neither of those operas could be considered familiar to the public's ears.

There's another Thomson opera that is even less known. Much later in his career, after Four Saints and Mother, he wrote an opera about the renegade English poet George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824). Byron's life as an artistic and political revolutionary insured that upon his death he would not be buried in the Poet's Corner in Westminster Abbey. Yet in Thomson's opera his body reposes there. The Met commissioned Thomson to compose Lord Byron in 1966, but the huge new stage at Lincoln Center made performance of it there problematical. The actual premiere came about after much delay in 1972 at the Julliard School.

The world premiere recording of Lord Byron was released in 1992 through the Koch International Classics label. The recording was made here in New England in Wilton, New Hampshire with the Yankee orchestral ensemble Monadnock Music under the direction of James Bolle. I last broadcast this same recording on Sunday, November 14, 1993.