University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

University of Hartford

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Wilde: Lady Windermere's Fan; Walton: Fa├žade

06/25/2023 1:00 pm
06/25/2023 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

I have designated the last Sunday in June as "Stonewall Sunday" after the Stonewall Rebellion of June, 1969, which marked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement here in the United States and across the world. On Stonewall Sunday, I like to present an opera by a gay male or lesbian composer, or on some gay-related theme, or perhaps performed by openly lesbigay singers. Spoken word presentations have long been part of the mix of my lyric theater programming: the recorded plays of Shakespeare, for instance.

On Stonewall Sunday of 2023 I turn to one of the iconic figures in our gay cultural heritage, Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). I have often broadcast the interview scene from Wilde's comedy of manners, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), in a recording made in 1939 and starring the legendary, and reputedly gay, British actor Sir John Gielgud as John Worthing and Dame Edith Evans as Lady Bracknell. The complete 1939 recording of the play I presented on Sunday, June 17, 1992.

Wilde's first play, Lady Windermere's Fan, has remained popular ever since its initial 1892 production. This play's witty dialog contains many of Wilde's most frequently quoted aphorisms, and it shows us a satirical picture of Victorian high society in all its hypocritical prudery. Yet it is also a melodrama about the merciful reconciliation of a mother who is technically a "fallen woman" with her respectable daughter. Lady Windermere's Fan was issued through Naxos AudioBooks on a pair of compact discs in 1997.

What is there in British music to compare with the witticism of the plays of Oscar Wilde? There's time remaining this afternoon for your audition of another Naxos compact disc release from 2022 of the complete music by Sir William Walton for Dame Edith Sitwell's highbrow entertainment, Façade(1922), which is her sendup of Late Victorian culture as she remembered it from her childhood. Walton himself was a mere youth of twenty years when he collaborated with the mature Sitwell in providing instrumental accompaniment for the recitation of her poems. Three contrasting voices trade off with each other in this new recording of Façade, backed by the Virginia Arts Festival Players, directed by JoAnn Falletta.