By Nicola Christie | The Independent
Playwright Mark Ravenhill and composer Michael Nyman have given a new spin to a classic opera, discovers Nicola Christie.
On the surface they don’t have much in common: Michael Nyman, composer of the “killingly popular” – his words – soundtrack to The Piano, grandee of the UK music world now trying to get his operas onto serious UK stages, and Mark Ravenhill, risqué playwright who brought Shopping and Fucking to our stages in 1996 and has continued to challenge audiences’ tolerance levels ever since. But Monteverdi’s Coronation of Poppea has unleashed in the two artists a rather extraordinary new venture that, if cared for properly, could fuel a surge in opera-going, and opera-writing, that could be very exciting.
Michael Nyman’s composition De L’hotel de la ville a la Concorde, originally written for the Michael Nyman Band, has been arranged for saxophone quartet and will feature on the upcoming Lunar Saxophone Quartet release, “Flux.”
(shown as part of Cine Opera)
Insouciant goldfish slowed to supineness swim vacuously toward us and float languidly back out of the frame in this Nyman offering, at first reminiscent of countless relaxation videos. Underpinning the enchanting and warmly colourful scene, rich in tangerine and cyan, is placid piano and low string tones. A parakeet training record runs in the background, the stroking sounds of sofly murmured repetition, echoic phrases that our feathered companions will learn to in turn amuse and soothe us. “Pretty boy” is followed by “Clever little boy”, “Good morning”, “Mama’s little treasure” and a host of others. The gently swimming goldfish presented provide the counterpoint, and we are subtly made conscious of the role of these animals in our lives: the aural pleasure of the birds’ well-learned phrases counter-balances the visual pleasure provided by the fish. As the title suggests, we are presented with two enticements, the “pretty” and the “talk”. The viewer is left to bathe in sensual pleasures or perhaps resist the enticement to an all too pervasive (ab)use of pets. All comes to an increasingly disconcerting end as the melifluous female warblings are replaced by harsher, more insistent tones. The agreeable gradually gives way to the abrasive, and we are cordially escorted out of the scene…. Seductive and yet thought-provoking.
- Kenton Turk | Directors Lounge
Pretty Talk screened in cooperation with Myriam Blundell Projects
“This album, Collections: Film Music Photography, features a DVD of a short film shot by Nyman, 50000 Photos Can’t Be Wrong, a booklet of his photography titled Cine Opera, and a CD retrospective, Portrait of a Label. The film and photography are visually striking (and the film contains music not found on the disc), but I will focus on the CD in this review.
Portrait of a Label, curated by Nyman himself, consists of one track each from the first 16 releases on his label… The best tracks are the instrumentals, performed by the Michael Nyman Band. Some of these, such as Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds, are rerecordings of earlier pieces (this was part of Nyman’s 1982 score to Peter Greenaway’s The Draughtsman’s Contract), so the retrospective covers not only the past five years, but a majority of Nyman’s career.
While these pieces stand out for their Baroque flavor and forward propulsion, they border on too much similarity, so they are broken up by several vocal pieces…
A few slower and more introspective pieces, such as The Mistress from the score to Laurence Dunmore’s The Libertine and To the Edge of the Earth from The Piano, have a heartbreaking beauty…
Collections can also be a starting place for someone becoming interested in contemporary music. Nyman’s style – a little Baroque, a little Minimalist – would be appealing to many.” (Adam Scott Neal)
Full review: http://www.sequenza21.com/cdreviews/2011/01/michael-nyman-collections/
More details: http://www.mnrecords.com/product3.html?cd=MNRCD204
The upcoming Smith Quartet CD on Signum, a collection of commissions and world premiere recordings all centered on the theme of ‘Dance,’ will feature a Michael Nyman piece called “Tango.”
The programme is a veritable ‘who’s-who’ of contemporary composition, also including works from Graham Fitkin, Jon Lord, Michael Finnissy and Django Bates, among many others.
Release date: 31 January, 2011
Taken from the Smith Quartet “Dance” CD booklet:
(From Never Forever)
In the Summer of 2007 at the end of an intensive and exhausting few days recording Michael’s opera Love Counts, he produced a “Tango” for string quartet written for the film Never Forever by the Korean director Gina Kim. The piece made an immediate impression on me and when the Smith Quartet was invited to tour South Korea in the Autumn of 2008 I asked Michael if we could have a copy to take along. Its associations with Korean film culture and, its raw, direct emotional expression, made it an obvious encore choice for us and not surprisingly, it was a big hit over there.—Ian Humphries