The Moscow premiere of Benjamin Britten’s opera-parable Curlew River set to celebrate the 55th anniversary of its creation took place at St. Andrew's Anglican Church on December 9, 2019. The opera is scored for an ensemble of singers and a septet of musical instruments and is part of the series “Parables for church performance”. Op.71.
“It was in Tokyo in January 1956 that I saw a No drama for the first time…The whole occasion made a tremendous impression upon me: the simple, touching story, the economy of style, the intense slowness of the action, the marvelous skill and control of the performers, the beautiful costumes, the mixture of chanting, speech and singing which, with the three instruments, made up the strange music - it all offered a totally new "operatic" experience.” B.Britten
The drama plot derives from the Japanese Noh plays and English medieval liturgical dramas. The medieval play Sumidagawa (Sumida River) served as the basis for the opera’s libretto and theatrical form. The key storyline is the salvation of the Madwoman with the help of the Pilgrims who assist her in saying good-bye to the spirit of her deceased son. Curlew River is conceived for church performance and therefore is not “staged”: the setting has been moved to the middle of a church encouraging a greater spectator’s involvement as he becomes emotionally engaged in drama and can even join the Pilgrims in praying. This convention affected the music fashion as well as it wonderfully exploits the specifics of a church acoustics. Gregorian chant is musically predominant with each instrument of the ensemble having its counterpart in a ceremonial Gagaku music.
The collaborative performance of the Moscow Conservatory and London Royal College of Music was delivered by:
- Entre Nous Chamber Orchestra, the Artistic Director and Conductor Azim Karimov.
- Chamber Choir of the Moscow Conservatory, the Artistic Director and Chief Choirmaster Alexander Solovyev, the Choirmaster Taras Yasenkov.
- Soloists - Michael Bell, Jeremy Kleeman, Julien Van Mellaerts
- Organ – Evgenia Krivitskaya
- Director- Victoria Agarkova
- Music producers- Yaroslava Kabalevskaya and Yulia Kupriyanova