Sir Michael Tippett (1905-98)
London Philharmonic Orchestra Label releases Tippett’s opera The Midsummer Marriage on 23 September 2022 – the first commercially released recording of the work in over 50 years
Recorded live at the opening concert of the LPO’s 2021/22 season, marking the beginning of Edward Gardner’s tenure as Principal Conductor
The London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO) Label will release Tippett’s opera The Midsummer Marriage on Friday 23 September – the first commercially released recording of the work in over 50 years. It was recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall on the opening night of the LPO’s 2021/22 season, which also marked the beginning of Edward Gardner’s tenure as Principal Conductor.
With libretto by the composer, the opera is a modern myth of hope and renewal, ritual and romance. Drawing on a wide variety of influences including Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and English folklore, the story traces the path of two couples to marriage, Jenifer and Mark and Jack and Bella, over three acts: morning, afternoon and evening & night.
The cast comprises tenor Robert Murray as Mark; soprano Rachel Nicholls as Jenifer; bass-baritone Ashley Riches as King Fisher; soprano Jennifer France as Bella; tenor Toby Spence as Jack; mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones as Sosostris; mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley as She-Ancient; bass Joshua Bloom as He-Ancient; tenor John Findon as Dancing Man; bass-baritone Paul Sheehan as Half-Tipsy Man; bass Robert Winslade Anderson as A Man; and mezzo-soprano Sophie Goldrick as A Girl with the London Philharmonic Choir and English National Opera Chorus.
Three singles will be released digitally in the lead up: Jenifer’s Is it so strange from Act One (Friday 2 September 2022); Bella’s I’ll lay the baby to my breast and rock it from Act Two(Friday 9 September 2022); and the Finale from Act Three (Friday 16 September 2022). The full recording comes out on Friday 23 September, the day before the LPO’s new season begins, and physical copies of the box set are accompanied by a 52-page booklet, complete with full libretto and articles by Oliver Soden, author of the first full-length biography of the composer, and Edward Gardner.
This recording of The Midsummer Marriage is made possible thanks to funding from the Michael Tippett Musical Foundation and is the first of a series of new initiatives supported by the Foundation to promote Tippett’s music. The Michael Tippett Musical Foundation was established in 1979 and, since then has made more than 500 grants in support of young musicians and composers, new music and music education initiatives. Edward Gardner has recently been made a patron of the Foundation.
An opera and its performance receiving its full due at last.
A wait of 50 years. I can’t really believe it.
Bravo Edward Gardner and his fine orchestra and cast.
It was a fabulous concert after the empty covid seasons to relaunch the RFH, as it were. Lovely to see Meirion Bowen (at 81) was able to attend and he seemed to love the performance. I first heard it in Oxford(WNO John Treleaven etc) in 1978 and it has been in my DI discs ever since. I talked to Robert Murray at the Oxford Lieder festival (a stunning Gurney evening) and he told me they hoped a recording would come out. Hard to believe it is only the 3rd after the Pritchard and Davis.
And EG is to follow it this year with GURRELIEDER, of course!
Such a privilege to be part of this performance. First performance after lockdown and an exhausting rehearsal schedule but Ed (as always) was inspiring and pulled performances out of us that none of would have believed possible. Thrilled that it is being issued as a recording.
The performance of Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage was inspiring. I hope that the orchestra may tackle his symphonies and concertos. My greatest ambition – I told Simon Rattle a while back – is to conduct The Mask of Time, which is dedicated to me. It’s one of the masterworks of the late 20th century. Its premiere performances in the USA under Colin Davis and in Toronto under Andrew Davis were so greatly acclaimed that its European premiere on the second night of the Proms that year was the first event to sell out completely that season, so that BBC music staff had to search desperately for tickets. The recording went to the top of the charts and won the composer the Grawmeyer award – £200,000 which he used to set up a Foundation to help other living composers and interesting music education projects: and also a Tippett School that still flourishes in SE London. Tippett’s music has been neglected in recent years. But Schott are gradually re-publishing his works on computer and I shall write the introduction to them. Perhaps this will attract a new generation of interpreters. Hope so.