Birtwistle's The Corridor on premiere tour(April 2009)
Birtwistle's The Corridor on premiere tour to Aldeburgh, London and Bregenz
Harrison Birtwistle’s new music theatre work, The Corridor, receives its world premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival on 12 June, as part of a theatrical double bill, touring to the Southbank Centre in London and the Bregenz Festival.
The Corridor is Birtwistle’s latest collaboration with poet David Harsent, following their work together on the operas Gawain and The Minotaur, and revisits one of the composer’s mythical fixations – the moment when Orpheus turns to look back at Eurydice and she is lost. David Harsent describes the scene: “The Corridor opens with this moment. Eurydice stands on the fault-line between life and death; and though the space she occupies is featureless – corridor, hallway, pathway – it will, nonetheless, return her to the Underworld. Love drew her out of Hades; now love sends her back.”
Birtwistle’s 40-minute scena is scored for two voices - soprano and tenor - and an ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, viola and cello with a harp functioning as an Orphic lyre. The Man pours out his lament for the lost Woman, who sings when in character as Eurydice but declaims in speech when she is commenting on the situation. In instrumental terms the work explores Birtwistle’s quest for an intimate form of chamber theatre, in which the players are participants in the action, responding to the vocalists.
David Harsent's libretto for The Corridor is on sale from our Sheet Download Centre
Paired with The Corridor is another piece inspired by lost love, Semper Dowland, semper dolens, which translates as Always Dowland, always doleful. Central to the work is John Dowland’s song Lachrimae which for Birtwistle is the epitome of melancholy, as understood by Elizabethan poets and composers. Birtwistle interweaves his arrangements for small ensemble of Dowland’s Seven Teares in Seven Passionate Pavanes, themselves based on the Lachrymae, with six Dowland songs where the harp takes the place of the lute. The song sequence builds towards questions of fidelity and betrayal and the threat of encompassing darkness, which chime with the inner drama of The Corridor.
Elizabeth Atherton and Mark Padmore are the vocalists in the double-bill, staged by Peter Gill with designs by Alison Chitty, and the instrumentalists are conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth. The Corridor and Semper Dowland, semper dolens were commissioned by Aldeburgh Festival and Southbank Centre for the London Sinfonietta. Following the first night on 12 June which inaugurates the new Britten Studio at Snape Maltings, further performances at the Aldeburgh Festival are on 15, 17 and 18 June. The double-bill then travels for its first London performances at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 6 and 7 July, and then receives its Austrian premiere staging at the Bregenz Festival on 31 July and 1 August.
Harrison Birtwistle celebrates his 75th birthday on 15 July, and highlights of the celebration year have so far included the Austrian and Dutch premieres of The Last Supper and performances of The Tree of Strings by the Arditti Quartet in Australia, the Far East and Germany. Birtwistle is much in evidence at festivals this summer including the Bath Festival (31 May/1 June), the UK premiere of Bogenstrich for baritone, cello and piano at the Cheltenham Festival (5 July), an extensive feature at the Aldeburgh Festival surrounding the new double-bill (12-27June), two concerts at the BBC Proms including a late-night programme by the London Sinfonietta (4 August) and Act II of The Mask of Orpheus (14 August), and concerts at the Lucerne Festival including the Swiss premiere of The Tree of Strings (29 August) and a new chamber work featuring Heinz Holliger (15 September).
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Photo: Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL
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