Libretto by David Harsent (E)
Boosey & Hawkes
Britten Studio, Snape Maltings
Martin Duncan, dir / Mark Padmore, ten / Elizabeth Atherton, sop
Conductor: Geoffrey Paterson
Company: London Sinfonietta
The Cure concerns the return to vigorous youth of an old man by magical means. Medea and Jason have returned from Colchis with the Golden Fleece. Jason is distressed that his father, old, frail and near to death, is unable to join in the celebrations. He asks Medea whether, were he to give ten years of his life, she could endow his father, Aeson, with those years. Medea is a witch. Her response is to bring Aeson back from the doors of death without need of any pledge from Jason. The story is to be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Cure adapts that narrative in ways both subtle and compelling.
© David Harsent
"Medea is persuaded by Jason to use her magic skills to give his elderly father, Aeson, back his youth. Again, time is stopped in its progress. Again, a character seems to cheat death, only for the promise of renewed life to be questioned. These are issues to which Birtwistle keeps coming back in a time-honoured ritual of his own."
"Both witch and woman, Medea is shown in thrall to her own magical power, the music’s heaving, twisting embrace overpowering her sense of movement. Here one is again acutely aware of Birtwistle’s extraordinary gift, and the way the music in his operas is often fully present to the characters: it doesn’t accompany them so much as animate them. The range of musical gesture is also astonishing… with string writing of a delicacy and fragility one wouldn’t have associated with Birtwistle until very recently."
Times Literary Supplement
"Birtwistle’s score, melancholy, vivid, exquisitely lyrical, marks yet another advance in his distinctive compositional process. His fingerprints are all over it of course, but somehow he has discovered yet new ways to make music theatre on this intimate scale."