Born on 18 July 1959, Jonathan Dove is one of Britain’s leading composers of opera, choral works, theatre, film, orchestral, and chamber music. His community opera Tobias and the Angel premiered in 1999 at Christ Church, Highbury Fields in London, was taken up in 2005 by the Young Vic / English Touring Opera during the refurbishment of the Theatre’s regular venue, and was the first opera performed at the newly revamped Young Vic in 2006. The libretto, by David Lan, is based on the Book of Tobit from the biblical Apocrypha. Dove has written more than twenty operatic works on a wide range of subjects and is the most performed contemporary opera composer in the UK.
The colourfully biblical story of Tobit, who is blinded after daring to give a fellow Jew a proper burial, and the ensuing adventures of his son, Tobias, is vividly portrayed. The story particularly appealed to the composer, who said: ‘The tale has a mystical aspect, but also the character of a Jewish folk-tale, especially the scene in which Tobias is threatened by a huge fish, kills it, and is instructed to take out its heart and gall – which turn out to have magical healing properties.’
Although the racial oppression and demonic possession which are part of this work are fully developed, it is undoubtedly one of Dove’s brightest, even serene, scores, possessing immense appeal and communicative power. The nine instruments of the orchestra provide plenty of colour, for example effectively evoking the Jewish elements of a klezmer band, and David Lan’s libretto does a masterly job in telling the story in an almost cinematic way. This is the work’s premiere recording.