THEA MUSGRAVE (b.1928): Mary, Queen of Scots.
Catalogue Number: 07U056
Description: Musgrave is a born dramatist - there are more than 10 operas, and many of her instrumental works contain a theatrical element, treating instruments as characters. This and her identity as a Scots woman composer (the former arguably far more important than the latter, though that may have had something to do with her attraction to the subject in the first place), make her the ideal composer to tackle the complicated emotional and court-intrigue entanglements surrounding the tragic figure of Mary, Queen of Scots. The young, attractive, impulsive Mary, already widowed from the king of France, arrives in Scotland and is the subject of intrigues from suitors, relatives and political and religious figures as she is hailed as Catholic Queen of England and Queen of Scotland during the turmoil of the Reformation. Musgrave's opera places Mary at the centre of the drama, with Lord Darnley, the Earl of Bothwell, and her own scheming half-brother, James as the other principal characters. The score is based firmly in tonality - her peers among 20th-century opera composers are figures like Shostakovich, Tippett, Henze and Sallinen (suggesting no particular stylistic affinity), with a trenchant grittiness to the many conflicts and confrontations in the drama, but also moments of great lyrical beauty given to the young queen, and the skillful incorporation of Renaissance dance styles into a pivotal ballroom scene in Act 1. The action (which ends with Mary's flight to England) moves along at a page-turning pace, and the piece succeeds magnificently both musically and in bringing a particularly messy episode of British history vividly to life. 2 CDs. No libretto. Ashley Putnam (soprano), Jake Gardner (baritone), Jon Garrison, Barry Busse (tenors), Virginia Opera Orchestra and Chorus; Peter Mark (rec. April 2, 1979).