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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Delius: A Village Romeo and Juliet

08/26/2012 1:00 pm
08/26/2012 4:30 pm


Host Keith Brown writes:

This will be the eighth time over three decades of opera broadcasting that I will be presenting the best known opera of Frederick Delius (1860-1934), the one that is regarded as his masterpiece: A Village Romeo and Juliet (1907). Every year on the last Sunday of August I feature one of Delius' six operas because I believe his impressionistic musical style so beautifully evokes the lazy, hazy end of Summertime. For a fifth time I return to the 1973 EMI recording with Meredith Davies leading the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and John Alldis Choir.

First I worked from the old Angel/EMI LP's, the original stateside release. Then I presented the better quality vinyl reissue through EMI in its HMV Greensleeve line. After that came the CD transfer of this wonderful recording which came out in 2002 through EMI Classics. EMI brought it out a second time on two compact discs in 2011. I draw upon that latest CD reissue in today's broadcast.

The singers put in what critics consider the definitive portrayals of their roles in Delius' setting of Gottfried Keller's story about the ill-fated love shared by a Swiss peasant boy and girl. Heard as Sali is tenor Robert Tear, opposite soprano Elizabeth Harwood as his beloved Vrenchen. The mysterious Dark Fiddler is baritone John Shirley-Quirk.

There will be time remaining this late Summer afternoon for other recordings of Delius' large scale compositions for orchestra and chorus, notably Sea Drift (1903), his setting of the verse of Walt Whitman. (That, too, is a Delian masterpiece. ) A special feature of my Delius program for this year will be his songs, some of them never previously recorded, as set forth in Volume One of The Complete Delius Songbook. British baritone Mark Stone interprets them, with Stephen Barlow accompanying him on piano. 217 Records released Volume One in 2010 with the blessing of the Delius Society.

217/Stone Records is an independent label specializing in alternative rock, jazz and spoken word. It is headquartered in Ashford, Connecticut.