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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting Night at the Opera
Judith Weir is one of the leading British composers of her generation; and her melodic grace, dancing rhythms and quirky sense of humour make her music not quite like anything else, despite the fecund influences of Britten, Messiaen and (most potently of all) Scottish folksong and dance.

We're (nominally) in 13th-century China. Chao Sun, explorer and mapmaker,...
Published on 22 Dec 2011 by Master Jacques

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3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very hard going.
I have to confess, I bought this recording not knowing what to expect. I try to keep my mind open to new and different musical experiences; I'm a huge fan of classical music and of musical storytelling (though not always of opera). In particular I have an interest in Chinese folk music and Beijing opera, and I suppose I was hoping that this modern opera might...
Published on 25 Aug 2010 by M. Board


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting Night at the Opera, 22 Dec 2011
By 
Master Jacques (London, England, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Judith Weir - A Night at the Chinese Opera (Audio CD)
Judith Weir is one of the leading British composers of her generation; and her melodic grace, dancing rhythms and quirky sense of humour make her music not quite like anything else, despite the fecund influences of Britten, Messiaen and (most potently of all) Scottish folksong and dance.

We're (nominally) in 13th-century China. Chao Sun, explorer and mapmaker, is exiled from the city of Loyan whilst his son Chao Lin constructs a canal. A troupe of actors are amongst his workers. The night before departure they enact a play - "The Chao Family Orphan" - in which the wicked General Tuan-Ku provokes the suicide of his servant Chao and his wife, leaving their young son an orphan. Unwittingly the General adopts and raises the child, and twenty years later they conspire to overthrow the emperor. The orphan discovers his identity and vows revenge. After the play, Chao Lin's work on the canal is acclaimed and he encounters an old woman who reveals his father's fate. Chao himself plots revenge...

This opera was one of her 'breakthrough' pieces. It is very approachable, readily enjoyable and ultimately rather moving in its contemplative, philosophic way - a genuinely rich meeting of West and East, with modern political overtones. Although its formal patterns may sprawl, the actual writing is economical; and Weir's constantly engaging sense of humour and power of melody win through. The CD performance under Andrew Parrott benefits from his baroque lightness of touch, and gets the piquancy of this memorable opera over delightfully. Highly recommended.
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3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very hard going., 25 Aug 2010
By 
M. Board "sheepisher" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Judith Weir - A Night at the Chinese Opera (Audio CD)
I have to confess, I bought this recording not knowing what to expect. I try to keep my mind open to new and different musical experiences; I'm a huge fan of classical music and of musical storytelling (though not always of opera). In particular I have an interest in Chinese folk music and Beijing opera, and I suppose I was hoping that this modern opera might demonstrate the influence of that style of composition.

I'm afraid I was sorely disappointed. I consider myself appreciative of avant-garde composition, but this left me cold upon first hearing and the sheer length and monotony of the piece has not encouraged me to go back for a second. To my ear, there is simply not enough suggested structure or development to the music, nor is there anything particularly memorable or inventive about the melodic cels and phrases. Virtually nothing happens in most of the scenes that Weir has chosen to 'dramatise'; both the music and the drama remain excruciatingly static for minutes on end. Moreover, despite its setting, the music does nothing to suggest Chinese modes or instrumentation, which for me in particular was a missed opportunity.

The piece reminded me a little of "The Cunning Little Vixen" by Leos Janacek (another opera I'm afraid I couldn't stand). If you are a fan of Janacek's work then you might possibly find this of interest (and the quality of the recording is certainly excellent); otherwise I would advise you to steer well clear.
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Judith Weir - A Night at the Chinese Opera
Judith Weir - A Night at the Chinese Opera by Scottish Chamber Orchestra (Audio CD - 2002)
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