Le Jongleur de Notre Dame

jongleurThere are, perhaps remarkably, two operas on the theme of based on Anatole France’s short story about a juggler monk who impresses the Virgin Mary with his skills.  There is a long one by Massenet and a much shorter one by Peter Maxwell Davies which I shall deal with here.

It’s perhaps misleading to call it an opera.  It’s a stage work which requires a juggler mime.  That bit doesn’t work so well on CD!  There’s only one singer; a baritone playing the abbot who is initially shocked by the juggler and then comes to understand.  There’s lots of nstrumental music played by a small chamber ensemble and, rather oddly, the last three minutes or so feature a children’s band.

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Samuel Barber’s Vanessa doesn’t get performed much and the recently released recording of the 2018 Glyndebourne production is the only video version available. ┬áIt’s pretty interesting, if perplexing at times, and I’m not as convinced as many of the people interviewed in the “extras” portion of the disk that this is an “under-rated masterpiece”.


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