JOSEPH PHIBBS (b.1974): Juliana.
Catalogue Number: 01X061
Label: Resonus Classics
Reference: RES 10290
Description: Juliana is a pithy, somewhat contemporary, largely faithful retelling of Strindberg's suffocating, and at the time, scandalous, domestic drama "Miss Julie". The story has been transplanted to the 20th century, and Julie/Juliana's father, the malignant all-powerful unseen presence, is now a millionaire businessman rather than a nobleman, so the power wielded by his daughter is that of wealth rather than the class struggle for Darwinian supremacy that was a subtext of Strindberg’s narrative, and a contemporary spin has been added by the subtext of immigration and the threat of deportation as the means of exercising that power. The essence of Strindberg's plot, the seductions, self- and mutually-destructive impulses of the two main characters, and the drama's tragic dénouement, are preserved intact. A slightly heavy-handed, though narratively effective, chorus-like commentary on the tragic consequences of recklessness is interpolated in a story told by Christine/Kerstin, not in the original. Phibbs' idiom is very tonal, with gratefully singable melodic lines enhancing the clarity of the text and the relatable emotions of the damaged characters, and a neo-romantic harmonic language (with Latin overtones during the dance scene, the manservant Jean being recast as a Bolivian chauffeur in this version). The pacing and rhythmic alacrity of the music is a major part of its appeal, and of its effectiveness in portraying the ebb and flow of the emotional content of the drama - indolence to seduction to frenzy to cruelty and finally to despair. Libretto included. Zoe Drummond (soprano), Rebecca Afonwy-Jones (mezzo), Felix Kemp (baritone), Nova Music Opera Ensemble; George Vass.