Listen
On Now : Breakfast
Playing: Concerto for violin and orchestra no. 1 (Op.26) in G minor, 3rd mvt; Finale ... by Max Bruch
BBC Radio 3
Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

Vaughan Williams's The Pilgrim's Progress

Live from English National Opera

Presented by Martin Handley

John Bunyan's allegory The Pilgrim's Progress was first read to Vaughan Williams as a young boy in the 1870's and the gripping story and vivid imagery stayed with the composer throughout the rest of his life culminating in his opera which he finished in 1951 - seventy years later.

Vaughan Williams own religious views were complex - as the son of an Anglican vicar and a relative of Charles Darwin they probably couldn't be anything else. When he was an undergraduate he professed to being an atheist but always mantained a spiritual side even if he wasn't a practicing Christian. He wrote a Mass and took on the job of editing the English Hymnal and included his own hymn tune 'York' in the opening bars of the Pilgrim's Progress. Vaughan Williams wrote his own libretto and in his hands Bunyan's tale becomes universal - Christian becomes Pilgrim and all references to Christ are missing from what the composer said was a 'morality' rather than an opera, in doing so Bunyan's Christian story becomes something much more universal.

Bunyan's tale is a dream of a quest with Bunyan himself as the dreamer and the pilgrim his alter ego who overcomes trials and tribulations on the real and symbolic journey from his home in the 'City of Destruction' to the 'Celestial City'. Along the way he receives guidance from the Evangelist, meets objections from his four neighbours Obstinate, Pliable, Mistrust and Timorous, is given succour at the House Beautiful before fighting and defeating the fiend Apollyon. He is imprisoned after false evidence is presented against him when he refuses to be seduced by the flesh and material delights of Vanity Fair. Escaping he continues on his way, Mr and Mrs By-Ends refuse to join him as they will only continue when the path is easy, Pilgrim pushes on aided by 'The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains' who point him straight at the gates of the Celestial City where Christian finds eternal salvation.

Yoshi Oida's acclaimed new production for English National Opera is set in Bunyan's prison - with baritone Roland Wood playing the roles of both Pilgrim and John Bunyan and Bunyan's fellow prisoners taking on all the other parts from the serene spiritual guides of the House Beautiful through to the gaudy pleasure seekers of Vanity Fair.

Pilgrim/John Bunyan........................................................Roland Wood (baritone)
Evangelist/Watchful/First Shepherd...............................Benedict Nelson (baritone)
Obstinate/Herald/Lord Hate-Good.............................George von Bergen (baritone)
Interpreter/Usher/Mr By-Ends/Second Shepherd..........Timothy Robinson (tenor)
Timorous/Lord Lechery/Messenger.....................................Colin Judson (tenor)
Pliable/Superstition/Celestial Voice 1.........................Alexander Sprague (tenor)
Mistrust/Apollyon/Envy/Third Shepherd.........................Mark Richardson (bass-baritone)
First Shining One/Madam Wanton/Voice of a Bird/Celestial Voice 3.....................................Eleanor Dennis (soprano)
2nd Shining One/ Branch-Bearer/ Malice.........................Aoife O'Sullivan (soprano)
Third Shining One/Cup-bearer/Pickthank/Woodcutter's Boy.............................................................Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano)
Madam Bubble/Mrs By-Ends/Celestial Voice 2.......................Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano)

Chorus and Orchestra of English National Opera
Martyn Brabbins, conductor.

3 hours, 15 minutes

Last on

Sat 24 Nov 2012 18:15
Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss