Iain Bell's In Parenthesis
From the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff, a performance of Iain Bell's new opera In Parenthesis. Carlo Rizzi conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera.
Iain Bell: "In Parenthesis"
The young British composer Iain Bell's new commission, recorded last month at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, adapts a critically acclaimed WW1 text by the Welsh poet, David Jones. Carlo Rizzi conducts the Chorus and Orchestra of Welsh National Opera.
First published in 1937, "In Parenthesis" is based on Jones' experiences as an infantryman with the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the Battle of the Somme. The opera follows Private John Ball and his comrades from an army Parade Ground in England in December 1915 to the Front line in France. Only visible to Ball, two bards, Britannia and Germania, and a Chorus of Remembrance, act as narrators. Ball is a visionary who straddles real and mythical worlds, forseeing a dark underworld ahead. The advance into Mametz Wood leaves Ball as the sole survivor of his troop. Wounded, he sees the surrounding carnage transform into a place of beauty, offering regeneration and hope. Artistic Director of WNO David Pountney directs this production on the centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
Christopher Cook introduces the opera with contributions from the poet Michael Symmons Roberts, composer Iain Bell, and librettists David Antrobus and Emma Jenkins.
Bard of Britannia / HQ Officer....Peter Coleman-Wright (baritone)
Bard of Germania/Alice the Barmaid/The Queen of the Woods....Alexandra Deshorties (soprano)
Sergeant Snell.....Mark Le Brocq (tenor)
Private John Ball....Andrew Bidlack (tenor)
Lieutenant Jenkins....George Humphreys (baritone)
Lance Corporal Lewis.....Marcus Farnsworth (baritone)
Dai Greatcoat.....Donald Maxwell (baritone)
Private Watcyn....Joe Roche (tenor)
Private Wastebottom....Martin Lloyd (bass)
The Marne Sergeant....Graham Clark (tenor)
German soldier/Runner....Simon Crosby Buttle (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera
Carlo Rizzi (conductor).
In a place out of time, two bards – representing Britannia and Germania – and a Chorus of Remembrance, contemplate ‘the many men so beautiful’ who went to war.
Private John Ball and his platoon of Royal Welch Fusiliers travel from Southampton to France on their journey to Mametz Wood. Throughout the journey, Ball experiences nightmarish visions of increasing intensity, where his comrades and surroundings appear to take on mythological dimensions, ranging from souls entering the underworld, to Chris leading his sheep.
In France, John Ball narrowly escapes death when a single shell impacts close by. The platoon then march to the Front Line on Christmas Eve. Six months later, they receive orders to move South to join the Battle of the Somme and find themselves taking part in the assault on Mametz Wood. At dawn a chorus of Dryads can be heard from within the forest. With the Queen of the Woods, they bring death and destruction to the forest, and Ball is the only survivor. The Queen of the Woods and her Dryads then transform into benevolent redeemers and garland the dead men with flowers and greenery bringing regeneration and re-birth with their prayers.
- With thanks to the Welsh National Opera