GERALD BARRY (b.1952): The Importance of Being Earnest.
Catalogue Number: 11Q080
Description: Wilde's satirical farce was never intended to convey any serious purpose or message, beyond poking fun at Victorian social conventions, and - most importantly - contriving situations in which the characters are able to give voice to witticisms that the author would doubtless have enjoyed uttering in real life, had the opportunity only presented itself. One senses that the composer's motivations are not dissimilar. Barry retains a good deal of Wilde's dialogue, but introduces cuts, some of which lead to precipitous non sequiturs, and the sometimes headlong, sometimes fragmented delivery of the lines, especially the famous ones that one inevitably expects to hear in the genteel mannerisms of the drawing room, play with the conventions of the play much as Wilde toyed with the expectations of an audience who might have expected similar characters to serve some higher, moral, Shavian purpose. Barry's zig-zagging vocal lines, misplaced accents and ironic allusions to other styles of music make savagely distorted parodies of Wilde's elegant caricatures. The music is not especially modern; repeated (often brash and hectoring) gestures and tonal centres of a sort abound, so the music is not inaccessible or hard to follow; the accelerated narrative pace and oddness of gesture are what make this work as a different kind of entertainment - a distorted hall of mirrors presentation, familiar yet disorienting - from the original. Libretto included. Barbara Hannigan (soprano), Katalin Károlyi (mezzo), Hilary Summers (contralto), Peter Tantsits (tenor), Joshua Bloom (baritone), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Thomas Adès.