Kommilitonen!

Kommilitonen! (Young Blood!, or Student Activists, literally Fellow Students!) is an opera by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. The libretto is by David Pountney, who was also the director of the premiere performances in March 2011.

Kommilitonen!
Opera by Peter Maxwell Davies
Peter Maxwell Davies
The composer in 2012
LibrettistDavid Pountney
Premiere
18 March 2011

Genesis

According to Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, the principal of the Royal Academy of Music in London, it was at a lunch to celebrate the appointment of Maxwell Davies to the Academy's staff that a suggestion was made that he might be interested in writing an opera for the students to perform. At first, the composer unequivocally declared that his days of composing opera or musical theatre were over, but he soon changed his mind, with the provisos that:

  • the opera must be about students,
  • David Pountney must be involved, and
  • the opera should be commissioned in collaboration with another college.[1]

Pountney's agreeing to write the libretto and direct the opera, and the agreement of the Juilliard School's President, Joseph W. Polisi, to the sharing of the commission, set the project in motion. The premiere, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins and conducted by the Academy's Director of Opera, Jane Glover, took place at the college's Sir Jack Lyons Theatre on 18 March, 2011. The American premiere took place at the Juilliard School in November 2011.

Roles

Role Voice type World Premiere cast,
Royal Academy of Music
18 March 2011
(Conductor: Jane Glover)
American Premiere cast,
Juilliard School
16 November 2011
(Conductor: Anne Manson)
The Oxford Revolution
James Meredith baritone Marcus Farnsworth Will Liverman
Voice of Pokayne baritone Jonathan McGovern Tobias Greenhalgh
Die Weisse Rose
Sophie Scholl soprano Aoife Miskelly Deanna Breiwick
Hans Scholl, her brother baritone Johnny Herford Alexander Hajek
Willi Graf bass-baritone Frederick Long Leo Radosavljevic
Christoph Probst/The Evangelist tenor Andrew Dickinson Noah Baetge
Alexander Schmorell/The Grand Inquisitor bass John-Owen Miley-Read Aubrey Allicock
First Clerk/Prison Guard mezzo-soprano Irina Gheorghiu Laetitia De Beck Spitzer
Second Clerk/Gestapo Officer 1/Janitor baritone Jonathan McGovern Takaoki Onishi, John Brancy
Gestapo Officer 2 baritone Maximilian Führig Tobias Greenhalgh
Soar to Heaven
Li Jingji (Mother) mezzo-soprano Irina Gheorghiu Lacey Jo Benter
Wu Tianshi (Father) baritone Jonathan McGovern Jeongcheol Cha
Wu (Son) mezzo-soprano Katie Bray Wallis Giunta
Li (Daughter) soprano Belinda Williams Heather Engebretson
Two Younger Children sopranos Hannah Bradbury, Annie Rago
Zhou (Red Guard) soprano Ruth Jenkins Karen Vuong
Red Army Officer 1 mezzo-soprano Belinda Williams
Doctor/Red Army Officer 2 mezzo-soprano Laura Kelly
Red Army Officer 3 mezzo-soprano Irina Gheorghiu
Puppets silent Blind Summit Theatre
Chorus of American, German and Chinese students and other citizens

Synopsis

The opera, which has twenty-eight scenes, tells three true stories. One, The Oxford Revolution, is about James Meredith and his struggle to be admitted to the University of Mississippi. The second, Die Weisse Rose, deals with Hans and Sophie Scholl, students at the University of Munich who exposed Nazi atrocities, and the third, Soar to Heaven, depicts students who were forced to denounce their parents during the Cultural Revolution in China. This story is based on part of John Pomfret's book Chinese Lessons.[2] The three stories come together at the end of the opera.

Scenes

Act 1
  1. Last Sortie (The Oxford Revolution)
  2. Stamps (Die Weisse Rose)
  3. Slogans I (Die Weisse Rose)
  4. Wall Painting (Die Weisse Rose)
  5. Slogans II (Soar to Heaven)
  6. My Father (The Oxford Revolution)
  7. Liederabend (Die Weisse Rose)
  8. Denunciation (Soar to Heaven)
  9. Directories (Die Weisse Rose)
  10. Envelopes (Die Weisse Rose)
  11. The First Leaflet (Die Weisse Rose)
  12. The Duplicator (Die Weisse Rose)
  13. The Train (Die Weisse Rose)
  14. Rabbits (The Oxford Revolution)
  15. Eyewitness I (Soar to Heaven)
 
  1. Eyewitness II (Die Weisse Rose)
  2. Wu Comes Home (Soar to Heaven)
  3. Naming of the Guard (Soar to Heaven)
Act 2
  1. Riot (The Oxford Revolution)
  2. The Grand Inquisitor (Die Weisse Rose)
  3. Quingming (Soar to Heaven)
  4. Arrest (Die Weisse Rose)
  5. Party (Soar to Heaven)
  6. Registration (The Oxford Revolution)
  7. Dream
  8. Epilogue
  9. Execution (Die Weisse Rose)
  10. Finale[1]

Instrumentation

The opera requires:

  • about forty musicians in the pit (strings, piccolo, flutes, oboes, cor anglais, clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, trombones, timpani, percussion)
  • an on-stage marching band for some of the Chinese scenes (piccolo, oboe, cor anglaises, cornets, trombone, sousaphone, percussion)
  • a backstage brass quintet (cornets, trombone, bass trombone, tuba, percussion)
  • an on-stage Jazz trio (piano, drums, double-bass)
  • an on-stage harp
  • an on-stage erhu for some of the Chinese scenes[1]

Reception

Some excerpts from reviews in British newspapers, March 2011:

  • Andrew Clements in The Guardian: "It commutes effortlessly between the narratives, Davies's music delineating each strand with remarkable clarity. His score is extraordinarily fluent: the vocal lines are perfectly judged and the instrumental writing full of wonderful touches, with marching band, jazz trio, solo harp and erhu players on stage. It is as good as any theatre score he has ever composed."[3]
  • Rupert Christiansen in The Daily Telegraph: "Sir Peter Maxwell Davies makes a splendid grumpy old man, and I am totally behind him over his recent stands against muzak in restaurants and on television documentaries. I only wish I could be so whole-hearted in support of his operas, but I have never found them of anything but superficial musical and theatrical interest. His latest effort, Kommilitonen! doesn't break the mould."[4]
  • Kieron Quirke in the Evening Standard: "Kommilitonen! is a glorious, heart-warming pageant of humanity."[5]
  • Richard Fairman in the Financial Times: "Running these tales simultaneously could have resulted in a confusing mishmash but Pountney has pinpointed the crucial elements of each so cleverly that everything is clear and the juxtapositions strike sparks off each other. Equally, the music works with exemplary theatrical skill; Maxwell Davies has coloured his score with snatches of American roots music, German art song and brassy Chinese marches without ever losing sight of the opera's unifying goal."[6]
  • George Hall in The Stage: "Fast moving in its presentation, the production is a punchy piece of theatre that proves surprisingly topical, even if its overall look and naive stance – there are obvious heroes and villains, with nothing in between - recall 1970s agit-prop. So does much of the score, wide-ranging and effective though its use of pastiche is, and drawing on the techniques of the memorable music theatre works that first brought Maxwell Davies to notoriety. Visually, this is a fine realisation, purposefully conducted by Jane Glover, though ultimately its simplistic viewpoint and air of nostalgia tell against it."[7]
  • Anna Picard in The Independent: "Diverting as it is, the opera is simplistic. This would be understandable were it written by, not for, students. So much emphasis is placed on books in Pountney's staging that it is hard to escape the suspicion that he believes a well-stocked library confers moral grace. History is full of literate thugs, but you won't find them in Kommilitonen!. The Dostoevsky scene could have been lifted from The Producers, with the Evangelist (Stephen Aviss) in a white SS uniform and the Inquisitor (John-Owen Miley-Read) in a black SS uniform. Meanwhile, Max attempts to convey Meredith's strength of character in music that is a homespun hair's breadth from Porgy and Bess. Orchestrally, vocally, theatrically, the performance is a triumph, but one that is not without compromise."[8]

References

  1. ^ a b c Royal Academy of Music: Kommilitonen! (Young Blood!), Programme for the world première production, March 2011
  2. ^ David Pountney: "I predict a riot", The Guardian, Review section, 5 March, 2011
  3. ^ Andrew Clements. "Kommilitonen! – review". the Guardian.
  4. ^ "Kommilitonen!, Royal Academy of Music, review". Telegraph.co.uk. 22 March 2011.
  5. ^ The Evening Standard full review
  6. ^ "Kommilitonen! Royal Academy of Music, London". Financial Times.
  7. ^ "Theatre, dance, opera and cabaret reviews - The Stage". The Stage.
  8. ^ Reviewed Anna Picard (22 October 2011). "A Magic Flute, Barbican Theatre, London Kommilitonen! Royal". The Independent.
An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise

An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise is a classical orchestral composition by the English composer Peter Maxwell Davies. It is notable for being one of the few pieces in classical repertoire to feature a bagpipe solo.

One of Davies's lighter pieces, it lasts for approximately twelve minutes, and vividly depicts the riotous celebrations after a wedding on Orkney. The piece closes with the entry of the bagpipes, which Davies describes as symbolic of the rising sun over Caithness. In concert performance, the piper, dressed in traditional Scottish regalia, is required to enter the hall from the back, parading to the stage and taking the soloist's position only as the piece concludes.

It was written to a commission by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, who premiered it under John Williams on May 10, 1985. It has since been performed and recorded many times (twice by the composer himself) and has been established as one of Davies's most enduringly popular pieces.

Caroline Mathilde (ballet)

Caroline Mathilde is a two-act ballet to music by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Its original choreographer was Flemming Flindt in 1991.

It tells the story of the eighteenth-century English princess Caroline Mathilde (sister of George III), who was sent to Denmark aged 15 to be married to the 17-year-old schizophrenic Danish King, Christian VII. The ballet portrays her unhappy marriage, the King's growing madness and her fatal love-affair with Struensee, the King's influential physician, which ultimately leads to their arrest, his execution and her exile at the age of 20, separated from her two young children.

As with Davies' earlier ballet, Salome, it was a commission by the Royal Danish Ballet. It was first performed on 14 March 1991 at the Royal Danish Theatre, Copenhagen. The orchestra was conducted by Markus Lehtinen.

Davies prepared two Concert Suites, each based on an act of the ballet.

David Pountney

For the retired footballer of the same name, see Dave Pountney

David Willoughby Pountney (born 10 September 1947) is a British and Polish theatre and opera director and librettist internationally known for his productions of rarely performed operas and new productions of classic works. He has directed over ten world premieres, including three by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies for whom he wrote the librettos of The Doctor of Myddfai, Mr Emmet Takes a Walk and Kommilitonen!

Mr Emmet Takes a Walk

Mr Emmet Takes a Walk is a chamber opera by the English composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with a libretto by David Pountney. The work is self-described as a "dramatic sonata".

It tells the story of the last seconds of the life of Mr Emmet before his suicide on a railway line. Thoughts, ideas, musical fragments and experiences flash through Mr Emmet's mind before his death which expand across the fifty-minute duration of the work.

Davies has cited the works of four composers as motifs in the opera: J.S. Bach's "Prelude and Fugue No. 12 in F minor" (BWV 881) from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Andrea Gabrieli's Edipo Tiranno, "Come furia disperata" from Mozart's Don Giovanni (Donna Anna in act 1, scene 1), and the opening of Schumann's Second Symphony.The work premiered in a co-production of Muziektheater Transparant and the Psappha ensemble at the St. Magnus Festival, Orkney on 16 June 2000. It was recorded in 2005 with the original cast. The German Premier took place in 2004, produced by the Berliner Kammeroper, directed by Kay Kuntze, conducted by Brynmor Jones.

Although Davies intimated that Mr Emmet Takes a Walk would be his last piece of musical theatre, just over a decade later he completed the a further opera, Kommilitonen!.

Naxos Quartets

The Naxos Quartets are a series of ten string quartets by the English composer Peter Maxwell Davies.

They were written between 2001 and 2007 to a commission from Naxos Records. In 2001 the Maggini Quartet was appointed to record all ten for the record label. The first quartet was premiered by the Magginis at the Wigmore Hall on 17 October 2002. In a talk before the premiere of No. 1, Davies said his quartets would be like "chapters in a novel".Not all of the quartets have explicit extra-musical references, although the landscape and culture of Davies' adopted Orkney remain ever present. Davies has stated that the Third Quartet is a manifestation of his feelings of outrage at the invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast the Fourth Quartet, subtitled Children's Games, takes as its inspiration Pieter Bruegel the Elder's eponymous painting of 1560. The Fifth Quartet uses a motif of the flashing of lighthouses on Orkney. The Seventh Quartet is a tribute to the Baroque architect Francesco Borromini, and the Eighth Quartet, based on John Dowland’s Queen Elizabeth’s Galliard, is dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her eightieth birthday.The string quartets are not Davies' first work in the genre: his first published composition was a movement for string quartet, and he produced a mature quartet in 1961. Two Little Quartets appeared in 1980 and 1987. There is also the unfinished final String Quartet (2016, op. 338), of which only the first movement was completed.

All ten quartets are now available on five discs or downloads from Naxos Records.

Peter Maxwell Davies

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (8 September 1934 – 14 March 2016) was an English composer and conductor. In 2004 he was made Master of the Queen's Music.As a student at both the University of Manchester and at the Royal Manchester College of Music, he formed a group dedicated to contemporary music, the New Music Manchester, with fellow students Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Elgar Howarth and John Ogdon. His compositions include eight works for the stage, from the monodrama Eight Songs for a Mad King, which shocked the audience in 1969, to Kommilitonen!, first performed in 2011. He wrote ten symphonies, the first from 1973–76, the tenth ("Alla ricerca di Borromini") in 2013.

As a conductor, he was Artistic Director of the Dartington International Summer School from 1979 to 1984. From 1992 to 2002 he was associate conductor/composer with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he also held with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Piano Concerto (Davies)

The Piano Concerto is a composition for solo piano and orchestra by the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. The work was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and was completed on 24 September 1997. The piece is dedicated to the pianist Kathryn Stott, who premiered the work with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the composer at the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on 7 November 1997.

Resurrection (opera)

Resurrection is an opera by the English composer Peter Maxwell Davies. Davies conceived it in 1963 whilst at Princeton University. However, the composer did not complete the opera until over 20 years later. The work received its premiere on 18 September 1987 at the Staatstheater Darmstadt, Germany.

Besides the protagonist, represented by a dummy, there are 23 roles requiring seven singers (mezzo-soprano, countertenor, bass, two tenors, two baritones) and four dancers. The orchestra contains single winds including trumpet and horn, and strings, as well as a backstage brass band. Davies also incorporates a rock band in the instrumentation, in his use of various musical styles.John Warnaby has discussed the relation of the opera to the writings of James Joyce and Thomas Mann.

Symphony No. 10 (Davies)

The Symphony No. 10 ("Alla ricerca di Borromini"), Op. 327, is a composition for orchestra, chorus, and baritone soloist, composed by Peter Maxwell Davies in 2013. It was premiered on 2 February 2014 at the Barbican Hall in London, by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, with baritone soloist Markus Butter, conducted by Antonio Pappano (Davies 2014).

Symphony No. 2 (Davies)

The Symphony No. 2 by Peter Maxwell Davies was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in celebration of its centenary, and was composed in 1980. Seiji Ozawa conducted the world premiere with the BSO on 26 February 1981 at Symphony Hall, Boston.

Symphony No. 5 (Davies)

The Symphony No. 5 was composed by Peter Maxwell Davies in 1994 on commission from the Philharmonia Orchestra, who gave the world premiere under the composer’s direction at a BBC Promenade concert on 9 August 1994, at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Symphony No. 6 (Davies)

The Symphony No. 6 by Peter Maxwell Davies was composed in Hoy during the first half of 1996, and was premiered on 22 June of the same year in the Phoenix Cinema, Kirkwall, as part of the twentieth St Magnus Festival, Orkney, by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer. The work was written with specific members of the RPO in mind, and is dedicated to the memory of the poet George Mackay Brown, who died on the day the symphony was completed.

Symphony No. 7 (Davies)

The Symphony No. 7 by Peter Maxwell Davies was composed in 2000. It was written for and dedicated to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, by whom it was premiered on 19 June 2000 at the St Magnus Festival, in the Pickaquoy Centre, Kirkwall, Orkney, conducted by the composer.

Symphony No. 9 (Davies)

The Symphony No. 9, Op. 315, is an orchestral composition by Peter Maxwell Davies, composed December 2011 – March 2012, and dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her diamond jubilee (Davies 2012).

It was premiered on 9 June 2012 by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vasily Petrenko (Ashley 2012; Fanning 2012).

The Martyrdom of St Magnus

The Martyrdom of St Magnus is a chamber opera in one act (with nine scenes) by the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. The libretto, by Davies himself, is based on the novel Magnus by George Mackay Brown. The opera was first performed in St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney on 18 June 1977.

The Yellow Cake Revue

The Yellow Cake Revue is a musical composition for piano and voice. Peter Maxwell Davies composed the piece in 1980. He first performed it at the Stromness Hotel, as part of the 1980 St Magnus Festival—a summer arts festival that he co-founded in 1977. English actress Eleanor Bron recited the spoken word portions for the debut performance.The world premiere of the revue was in the Pfalztheater in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on 5 May 1990. It was performed by pianist Andrew Olivant, soprano Jayne Casselman, and Friedrich Schilha.

Trumpet Concerto (Davies)

The Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra is a composition for trumpet solo and orchestra by the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. The work was commissioned by the Philharmonia Orchestra for its then principal trumpeter John Wallace. It was given its world premiere by Wallace and the Philharmonia Orchestra under the conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli in Hiroshima on 21 September 1988.

Violin Concerto No. 1 (Davies)

The Violin Concerto No. 1 is the first violin concerto by the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. It was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to commemorate the ensemble's 40th anniversary. The work was completed in 1985 and first performed at the St Magnus Festival by the violinist Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by André Previn on 21 June 1986. The piece is dedicated to Isaac Stern.

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