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Cat. No. CHAN 10472 Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10472 - Dove: Siren Song
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Available From: 01 May 2008
Siren Song, by the British composer Jonathan Dove, is a chamber opera about the longing for love and the susceptibility to deception, which here receives its world premiere recording. Dove is best known for his operas, including Flight, which also received its premiere recording on Chandos and was applauded by the critics. BBC Music Magazine (‘Pick of the month’, June 2004) wrote, ‘Anyone who cares about opera as a living art form will rejoice in Chandos’s decision to issue the recording of Flight from Glyndebourne with the original cast’.

The recording was made live at performances that took place at the 2007 Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam, where Dove was the composer-in-residence. The Siren Ensemble, specially formed for these performances, consists of ten young, talented musicians, most of whom have appeared at the festival in previous years. The Australian tenor Brad Cooper, who recently made his ENO debut in The Coronation of Poppea and will shortly appear in La traviata for the Nationale Reisopera in The Netherlands, takes the lead role of Davey. Henk Guittart, best known for his work as the violist of the Schoenberg Quartet, conducts.

The opera is based on a bizarre, true story. A young sailor on HMS Ark Royal exchanges letters with a beautiful and successful model personally unknown to him, yet with whom he becomes infatuated. Over time a romantic and passionate relationship develops, yet a meeting is increasingly difficult to arrange and Davey proves to be the victim of an elaborate deception. The composer writes, ‘When I first came across the true story which inspired Siren Song, I knew it had to become an opera. What initially appears to be a simple story of a sailor duped by a con-man turns out to have surprising depths… it is a story about the power of the imagination, and how we invent the people we love’. The Almeida Opera in London liked the idea, and commissioned Dove to write it.

In 1994 Siren Song played to packed houses, received rave reviews, and attracted considerable attention. For Opera Now Rachel Connolly wrote, ‘The closely-woven, almost minimalist texture of Siren Song never once lacks dramatic momentum. The musical language is immediately accessible, belying, one suspects, a complexity of rhythm and harmony… If I was planning on introducing a beginner to opera, this is one I would choose’, while Alexander Waugh, in the Evening Standard, had this to say, ‘Siren Song is decidedly the most enjoyable contemporary opera I have seen for a very long time’. Of this production, Dove writes, ‘I was thrilled with the Grachtenfestival performances, staged with eloquent simplicity by Jim Lucassen and beautifully conducted by Henk Guittart. And I am delighted that, thanks to Chandos, Diana can once more be heard luring unwary sailors to their destruction’.
Reviews

The performance is, in fact, superb throughout: I cannot imagine Jonathan Dove desiring better rendition of his music.
International Record Review

Henk Guittart conducts the Siren Ensemble with a gripping sense of tension and release throughout.
The Times

Jonathan Dove’s one acter, first given by Almeida Opera 14 years ago, is a gem of a piece from a composer who rarely puts a foot wrong in the opera house
BBC Music Magazine

The cast is excellent, as is the playing of the purpose-built Siren Ensemble under Guittart
Sunday Times

This recording, made at last summer’s (2007) production at the Amseterdam Gratchenfestival, is expertly paced, and Dove’s Adams-inspired sound-world is evocatively conjured up by the small chamber ensemble.
The Telegraph

Opera-lovers who have been craving an addition to the repertoire that offers fine storytelling, a dazzling tonal score, and intensely appealing characters should acquire this recording at once. Time will sort out greatness, but perhaps popular opera may not be a thing of the past after all
Fanfare

Not since Benjamin Britten has a British composer succeeded in writing operas which communicate with such clarity and coherence to their audience as those by Jonathan Dove. The secret to his success lies partly in his experiences of writing ‘community’ operas, resulting in refreshingly open and accessible works. But there’s also plenty of grit and grime beneath the polished veneer of his streamlined style, especially when the plot is as equally compelling and disturbing as it is in Siren Song.
Gramophone

…this is a very fine opera, with inventive solutions to how to put this story on stage and wonderful roles for the singers, proving yet again what a terrific opera composer we have in Jonathan Dove
Opera Now

 

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