|Vaughan Williams: Sir John in Love
Andrew Shore as Falstaff at ENO in 2006
With English opera of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, reasonably than taking the works to our hearts the best way different international locations do their very own idiomatic repertoire, we reasonably tend to berate the works for not being one thing else (or ignoring them completely). We did not develop an English operatic type that could possibly be in contrast on to the nice continental fashions, as a substitute composers tended to take a considerably private line. But nice swathes of late nineteenth century English opera is berated for not being Verdi (and for being too near G&S), business successes like Sullivan’s Ivanhoe and Rutland Boughton’s The Immortal Hour are dismissed as fustian, Smyth’s The Wreckers is instructed off as a result of it’s neither Peter Grimes nor Tristan und Isolde, while RVW’s complete oeuvre of stage works appear to be thought to be eccentric and (to a sure extent) unstageable.
Sir John in Love, RVW’s 1929 opera primarily based on Shakespeare, is maybe his most typical opera although it solely occasional reaches the stage and when it does, critics are inclined to moan that it’s not Verdi or Nicolai. RVW’s retort would in all probability be ‘that’s the level’. He wrote his personal libretto, primarily based on Shakespeare, however including different Elizabethan lyrics, and the work could be very a lot a product of his personal creativeness.
There’s a welcome probability to expertise RVW’s Sir John in Love as soon as once more as British Youth Opera has introduced that it’s their Summer season opera and they are going to be performing it at Opera Holland Park in August. These will (in all probability) be the work’s first performances within the UK since 2006 (when English Nationwide Opera carried out it, see my overview). And people 2006 performances have been the primary skilled performances within the UK since 1958. The work was premiered on the Royal Faculty of Music in 1929 and it has at all times had an inclination to be seen as a piece for college students, younger professionals and even amateurs. It did not have its first skilled efficiency till 1946.
That is partly as a result of RVW wished to maintain as a lot as Shakespeare as attainable. RVW had totally different intentions to Verdi and Boito. Boito simplified the plot, decreased the variety of characters and strengthened Falstaff’s half by including speeches from Henry IV. RVW saved Shakespeare’s full forged (twenty named components), left as a lot of the plot as attainable in order that the ‘Whitehall Farce’ parts of Shakespeare’s play are current; however RVW used up to date Elizabethan/Jacobean poetry to present every of the characters their very own lyrical second.
That is proper, 20 named components. It causes issues in Act One, which may appear over busy however for an organization like BYO it’s close to splendid. One bigger scale opera having extra roles than a pair of extra well-known works and RVW makes positive everybody will get their second. RVW does use folksong within the music, however solely round quarter-hour’ price in the whole piece, all the opposite tunes are his personal although folk-ish in forged.
BYO can be giving 4 performances with two totally different casts from 24 to 27 August 2022 at Opera Holland Park, with Southbank Sinfonia within the pit. Additional particulars from the British Youth Opera web site.