Unruly Sun is a song cycle in 19 parts with music by Matthew Ricketts (left) and words by Mark Campbell (below). It’s inspired by Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature and was performed last night in Mazzoleni Hall by tenor Karim Sulayman accompanied by piano and string quintet. I was much more affected by this piece than I expected to be. The text covers a lot of ground; Jarman’s cottage at Dungeness with it’s bleak shingle beach and nuclear power station, AIDS and the loss of friends, a bad porn movie and, of course, Jarman’s garden (which also of course inspired Tm Albery’s Garden of Vanished Pleasures), and anger at Thatcher’s Britain and her indifference to those suffering from AIDS (c.f. Jarman’s The Last of England). These ideas are linked together by sections about plants and flowers and quotes from (I think) John Donne. So, the AIDS crisis and the burning tire fire of Thatcherism meets the Georgian tradition that links the Elizabethans to Edmund Blunden and beyond. It’s beautifully constructed and the somewhat minimalist, evocative and rather beautiful music supports without imposing itself. And the performance was stunning; beautiful singing, beautiful playing and cool projected images. Continue reading
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Karel Szymanowski’s 1924 opera Król Roger is surely the only opera in Polish in anything like the standard rep. Maybe that’s one reason it’s not performed all that often because it’s really rather good and Kasper Holten’s 2015 production at Covent Garden makes a pretty good case for it. The story is set in 12th century Sicily, though as we shall see , that really doesn’t matter. The Church is complaining to the king about a heretical prophet, the Shepherd, who is leading people astray with a strange doctrine of Love and Nature. Roger’s queen is much taken with the Shepherd and helps protect him. The king, who is clearly battling demons rooted in a bloody past, vacillates. Eventually he’s persuaded and the opera closes with Roger singing an ecstatic hymn to the rising sun.