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MacMillan: US premiere of Clemency

(January 2013)

James MacMillan’s Clemency, his new one-act opera, is staged for the first time in the United States by Boston Lyric Opera in February

James MacMillan’s new one-act chamber opera Clemency receives its first American performance in February, presented by co-commissioner Boston Lyric Opera. The opera features a libretto by poet Michael Symmons Roberts, which depicts a dramatic Old Testament tale of Abraham and Sarah. The couple are nearing the end of their lives and are childless, but receive wonderful news from three mysterious strangers, which ultimately leads to Abraham pleading for forgiveness of clemency based on past transgressions. Boston Lyric’s production, February 6, 7, 9 and 10, 2013, a chamber orchestra led by BLO Music Director David Angus, along with baritone David Kravitz as Abraham and soprano Christine Abraham as Sarah.

Clemency (2009–10) received glowing reviews following its 2011 premiere at the Royal Opera’s Linbury Studio Theatre in London. Noted The Observer: “the best MacMillan score I’ve heard… as densely coloured and detailed as the Russian Orthodox icon which in part prompted it. Its starting point is the Old Testament story of Sarah and Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. One can imagine that MacMillan and his librettist, Michael Symmons Roberts, wrote in a white heat of intensity.”

“…in James MacMillan’s music, every note counts. And never more so than in Clemency, which packs questions powerful, emotional, philosophical and religious into just 45 minutes… MacMillan has created a terrifically intense, focused and inspired musical work on a thought-provoking parable, updated to the present day.”
— The Independent

Clemency’s economical treatment of a slice of scripture, its casting for just five voices, four of them male, and its quasi-ritualistic manner of proceeding evoke the Britten of the church parables. MacMillan’s restlessly inventive string-writing—biting, resonant, athletic, but with an expressionistic edge—sounded terrific.”
— Sunday Times

MacMillan’s Piano Concerto No. 3, The Mysteries of Light (2007–08), receives three more American performances this Spring with soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet: Nashville Symphony May 2–4; Atlanta Symphony May 30–June 1; and the Indianapolis Symphony June 7–8.


> Further information on Work: Clemency

Photo: Philip Gatward

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