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Cat. No. CHAN 10186(2) Price: £4.5 No. of discs: 2
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CHAN 10186 - Berkeley: Baa Baa Black Sheep
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Available From: 09 February 2004
Baa Baa Black Sheep is based in part on an autobiographical story by Rudyard Kipling which describes how, as young children, Kipling and his sister were brought to England from India and sent to live with a retired ship’s captain, his fanatical wife (Aunty Rosa) and their bully of a son, Harry.

Aunty Rosa took violently against Kipling, and the boy was constantly beaten. In his short story Kipling referred to his new home as the ‘House of Desolation’. This childhood experience marked Kipling for life and explains a great deal of his later writing – the often terrifying elements of revenge, for example, and of course the escape offered by fantasy. Kipling acknowledged that it was during this ordeal he first thought about a child living amongst animals.

The opera marries the outline of the short story with the elements of The Jungle Book that quite naturally seemed to comment psychologically on the child’s predicament. Each of the characters from one world has its counterpart in the other, and thus a comparison of human and animal behaviour is drawn. So, for instance, the bully, Harry, becomes Mowgli’s arch-enemy in the jungle, the tiger Shere Khan; the sea captain, the only person to show kindness to Kipling, becomes Akela, the old wolf leader; Kipling’s sister runs with Mowgli as Grey Wolf etc. In his libretto David Malouf has endowed the young Kipling with the power to effect his own form of wild justice, so that the tormentors are murdered in the fantasy. The seemingly austere walls of a wretched childhood fall down to reveal an exotic and magical place.
Reviews

This is a powerful first opera, a welcome challenge to any enterprising opera company, and reissued at a time when much more of Michael Berkeleys music is appearing on the Chandos Berkeley Edition. The recording captures the intensity of a live performance, which never loses impetus.
Gramophone

This recording was made at performances by a uniformly strong Opera North cast' warmly recommended: even if you dont think you like contemporary opera, give it a try.
BBC Music Magazine

The recorded performance is excellent, less sung than acted, less performed than lived. Malcolm Lorimer (boy treble) sounds truly terrified of the savage, vicious Aunty of Fiona Kimm, a triumph of the portrayal of evil. The rest of the singers are uniformly fine. The orchestra and chorus contribute their excellence to the show.
American Record Guide

''the cast is marvellous from top to bottom. Everyone sings extremely well, with remarkably clear diction, especially given the difficulty of some of the musical lines. The orchestra and chorus completely belie their status as provincial organisations. The recording, while obviously live, captures the wide range of colour and dynamic coming from the stage. James North, in particular, has written eloquently about the rarity of a new opera that has legs. It seems to me that this is one of them. If you missed the original Collins issue, don't make that mistake again.'
Fanfare

'The recorded performance is excellent, less sung than acted, less performed than lived. Malcolm Lorimer (boy treble) sounds truly terrified of the savage, vicious Aunty of Fiona Kimm, a triumph of the portrayal of evil. The rest of the singers are uniformly fine. The orchestra and chorus contribute their excellence to the show.'
American Record Guide

'This recording was made at performances by a uniformly strong Opera North cast' warmly recommended: even if you don't think you like contemporary opera, give it a try.'
BBC Music Magazine

 

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