Photo, Chris Christodoulou

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Royal Albert Hall, London

If needed, some background to The Wreckers:

Also if needed, the synopsis:

From me, a few words on the music and the performance, beginning with the Overture, a strikingly dark, dramatic and tempestuous piece (heralding shipwrecks and smugglers) that made the short burst of opening electronic thunder superfluous. The Wreckers by Ethel Smyth (1858-1944), she was born in Kent, was first staged in Leipzig in 1906 using a German version of the original French libretto, by Henry Brewster, and the reason for the ‘foreign’ language for an opera set in England was that Smyth believed The Wreckers stood a better chance of being produced at Covent Garden where French opera in particular was very popular. It was rejected.

The score is quite long (two hours and thirty minutes here) and maybe inconsistent, although it depends on what is happening in terms of the storyline, for plenty of atmosphere and scenic detail is apparent, and there is much that is impressive and individual about Smyth’s colourful and variegated orchestration, and she carries through the action of the three Acts with skill and certainty. Wagnerisms (and other influences) are apparent, if absorbed into the Smyth style, and given the scenario is set in Cornwall it is perhaps no surprise that echoes of Tristan are evident, not least in Act II, which likewise includes a search-party and an ardent love-duet. Although it may be that the final Act is the best one, during which a possible traitor to the community is put on trial.

Following a run at Glyndebourne, this semi-staged Proms performance was thrilling, benefitting from character-defined and interactive singing, lusty choral contributions and superb playing from the London Philharmonic, Robin Ticciati conducting The Wreckers with the utmost conviction. It was good to hear this opera as Smyth intended it, although I wonder if an English translation might have been commissioned given that French is hardly germane to the location and its use was more to do with Smyth recognising trends of the time.

Pascoe…. Philip Horst (bass-baritone)
Lawrence…. James Rutherford (baritone)
Mark…. Rodrigo Porras Garulo (tenor)
Avis…. Lauren Fagan (soprano)
Harvey…. Donovan Singletary (baritone)
Tallan…. Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (tenor)
Jack…. Marta Fontanals-Simmons (mezzo-soprano)
Thirza…. Karis Tucker (mezzo-soprano)

Glyndebourne Festival Opera
London Philharmonic Orchestra