JOHN METCALF (b.1946): Under Milk Wood.
Catalogue Number: 06Q082
Label: Ty Cerdd
Description: Basing an opera on a pre-existing performance piece, especially one as famous as Dylan Thomas' radio play, requires a certain originality of approach, and that is what it receives here. The text is all Thomas', rearranged somewhat, and shortened, neither compromising the result because of the original's structure of self-contained character portraits representing twenty-four hours in the life of a fictional Welsh village. Acknowledging the work's origins, the opera is performed as though in the performance of a radio production, with foley sound effects and background scene-setting sounds of the sea, water, doors creaking and closing etc. The affectionate, often humorous (sometimes slightly suggestively so) little character studies of the small-town eccentricities, dreams and small passions of the populace are thus preserved intact, as is Thomas' lovely and atmospheric descriptive narration. Metcalf's music is clear and direct, tonal and, while admitting some episodes of cross-rhythmic complexity in the interweaving of melodic lines, immensely approachable and easy to listen to. The style of melodic writing is skillfully tailored to the characters represented, with a finely attuned ear to the intrinsic music of Thomas' text; poetic stanzas are rendered in song form, extended descriptive passages in a kind of recitative with instrumental punctuation, the characters' soliloquies as melodic arias with intricate instrumental counterpoints for accompaniment. The twenty-four hours of the narrative are cleverly reflected in the harmonic structure of the work, which marks a stepwise ascent through the chromatic scale, lending this colorful and warmly inviting work a pleasing cyclic form. 2 CDs. No libretto. Elizabeth Donovan, Helen-Jane Howells, Gweneth-Ann Jeffers (sopranos), Paul Carey Jones (baritone), Michael Douglas Jones (bass-baritone), Cwm Glas Primary School Choir, Parmela Attariwala (violin, viola), Wyn Davies (organ, piano, synthesizer), Deian Rowlands (concert harp, lever harp), Jose Zalba-Smith (flutes), Paul Stoneman (percussion).