Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


New App by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra for iOS and Android!

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

REVIEW



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

alternatively
CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Kris DEFOORT (b. 1959)
The Woman who walked into doors (2001) [82.31]
Paula Spencer - Jacqueline Blom (actress)
Paula Spencer – Claron McFadden (soprano)
Dreamtime; Prometheus Ensemble/Etienne Siebens
rec. live, Bruges Concertgebouw, 23 September 2006
FUGA LIBERA FUG709 [63.05 + 19.26]

Experience Classicsonline

The Woman who walked into doors is an opera by the Dutch composer Kris Defoort. It’s based on the novel by Roddy Doyle with a libretto by Guy Cassiers, Kris Defoort and Marianne Van Kerhoven. Doyle's book tells the story of Paula Spencer who has spent twenty years of marriage being abused by her husband Charlo. The book extensively uses flashbacks and the opera has a similarly flexible approach to structure.

The interesting thing about Defoort's opera is its approach to the drama and the interaction between the characters. The character of Paula Spencer is played by the soprano Claron McFadden and actress Jacqueline Blom. The remaining characters are not sung, instead the dialogue is projected using video. The opera is described as being for actress, soprano and video screen.

This is something of a problem when listening to the piece on CD. In more conventional circumstances a CD can be a limited transcription of a live performance. Here the lack of visuals means that we are deprived of the other characters in the drama. In fact the libretto provides the text not only sung and spoken but also that projected, so that it is possible to follow the full drama from the libretto. But this is, frankly, not quite the same as experiencing the piece in the theatre.

Belgian-born Defoort has a background in jazz and improvisation, both as composer and as performer. His compositional style is eclectic, mixing modernism with a jazz/funk element. This is reflected in the accompaniment which is split between two ensembles, Dreamtime and the Prometheus Ensemble. The latter is a more traditional chamber orchestra and the former more aligned to the jazz-funk element.

The libretto is roughly linear, placed in the present with Paula receiving notice of her husband's death; she had kicked him out the year previously after 18 years of marriage. During the narration we get numerous flashbacks that fill in the gaps, from Paula's childhood and youth, through Charlo's courtship until the revelations in the last act when she finally admits the amount of damage that Charlo caused. The structure is impressively flexible.

Doyle's novel uses the sounds of the 1980s as a soundtrack. Defoort, instead of quoting the music of the period, simply uses the contrasts between his modernist style and the jazz/funk elements. There is also a striking contrast between the two protagonists, as soprano McFadden tends to get rather less of the narrative. Instead she comments on the action. It is actress Blom who is the engine of the narrative. This contrast is emphasised by the fact that McFadden sings with her native American accent whereas Blom uses a rather strong - and perhaps overly stagey - Irish accent.

This works well for the first two acts where the double protagonists manage to evoke the varied nature of Paula's life. Defoort's music mixes the jazz/funk excitement with the edgier modernist elements. These contrast to create an atmospheric score.

I had greater doubts in the final act when the revelation of Charlo's mistreatment of Paula is brought to the fore. Here, we find that in the essential moments Defoort relies more on the actress than the soprano and that his music seems to lack the ability to depict the actual horror. I felt that the piece shied away from real bleakness. At other times the music achieves an angry drama, but at the key point in the drama we are left relying simply on a spoken voice.

A greater problem is the issue of the dialogue from the other characters; reliant on the printed libretto the listener has to keep paying attention to the printed word otherwise the soprano and actress appear, at times, to be indulging in some rather odd extended monologues. Some passages work well just in audio. Other dialogue passages really do need you to pay attention to the rest of the words.

The booklet suggests that Defoort’s music is completely based on the dialogue - both spoken and projected. This creates a dramatically satisfying entity. Whilst the music is fascinating and vivid, there are some passages which simply do not work without the extra visuals.

McFadden and Blom contribute admirable performances, though at times I did wonder about Blom's accent. The two ensembles under Etienne Siebens form far more than just accompaniment and establish a really strong thread to the drama.

The booklet includes the full text, spoken, sung and projected, in English which is the language of the opera. Couple these features with photographs of the original production and articles about Defoort and the opera.

This is a fascinating and compelling piece which I would dearly love to experience in live performance. One question remains: why issue the piece on CD when it would seem to be an obvious candidate for a DVD? The CD inevitably represents a rather dim reflection of the live performance. This strong performance gives us a good idea of Defoort's eclectic musical style and his rather distinctive solution to creating a music-theatre piece from Roddy Doyle's novel.

Robert Hugill


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools






Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.