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Blow: Venus and Adonis
During recent years three CPO productions in the Boston Early Music Festival series have received Grammy nominations in the category of the Best Opera Production and two have received Gramophone Award nominations in the Baroque Vocal category.
Following Charpentier’s Actéon (cpo 7776132) late last year, The Boston Early Music Festival Chamber Ensemble and outstanding young soloists now lend new life to John Blow’s Venus and Adonis in a top-quality performance under the leadership of the lutenists Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs.
The striking parallels between it and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas suggest that the two works were composed at about the same time and are interrelated in some way. While Dido and Aeneas stands firmly in the epic tradition, Venus and Adonis is a model example of the pastoral genre.
“Mireille Lebel's Cupid shines in Boston's tryst with Blow's pastoral precursor to Purcell's Dido. Playing is stylish, though Tyler Duncan's Adonis sounds unfeasibly mature.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2011 ****
“Forsythe's languid singing is apt for the eroticism of Venus, whose lover Adonis is sung smoothly by baritone Tyler Duncan; Mireille Lebel is less boyish than most Cupids on disc but that does no harm to the impression of knowing innuendo and cynicism (full of in-jokes aimed at members of Charles II's court). The BEMF chorus sounds lovely in gentler passages that adopt a lyrical French style...yet another wonderful recording of a 17th-century opera.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2011
“Amanda Forsythe is - as she must be - a warm, enticing Venus, though a perverse one, whom the libretto demands must finally drive her hesitating lover to the chase. Tyler Duncan has a fine baritone, but not quite so confident in the lower register. It's a pretty good chorus too, heard to best effect in the plangent closing number.” International Record Review, September 2011
“This vivid Boston performance evokes the pastoral spirit of the piece, with Amanda Forsythe and Tyler Duncan alluring as the lovers, and Mireille Lebel as a cute Cupid.” Sunday Times, 31st July 2011 ****
Usually despatched in 2 - 3 working days.
John Blow: Venus and Adonis
Recorded live at Wigmore Hall, London, on 3 May 2010
Venus and Adonis
Venus Sophie Daneman (Venus), Roderick Williams (Adonis), Elin Manahan Thomas (Cupid), Helen Neeves (soprano, shepherdess), Caroline Sartin (alto, shepherd), Jason Darnell (tenor,huntsman), Frederick Long (bass, shepherd), Cupids, from Salisbury Cathedral School: Grace Beverley, Flora Davies, Kelly Frost, Hermione Leitch, Rebecca Lyles, Helena Mackie, Georgiana Roxburgh, Rosanna Wicks
Cloe found Amintas lying (A Song for Three Voices)
Ground in G Minor
Vos mépris chaque jour
The author of the libretto of Venus & Adonis, the oldest surviving all-sung English opera (1683), had the simple moniker of “anonymous,” until recent research uncovered the true librettist to be not only female, but also maid of honour to the Duchess of York, Maria Beatrice of Modena. In penning Venus & Adonis, Anne Kingsmill (1661-1720) used her inside knowledge to comment on court morals with staggering directness, incorporating strands of comedy, sexual politics and passionate love.
For this recording of Venus & Adonis on Wigmore Hall Live, Elizabeth Kenny, one of Europe’s leading lute players and founder of the Theatre of the Ayre, has, for the first time, used girl choristers in the chorus and females rather than boys in the roles of Cupid and Little Cupids. The critically-lauded Theatre of the Ayre was set up to explore the dramatic vocal music of 17th century England and this performance, with its distinctive female perspective and improvisatory nature apt to Blow’s recitative style, is a faithful interpretation. The distinguished vocal line-up includes Sophie Daneman, Roderick Williams and Elin Manahan Thomas. Venus & Adonis later served as a model for Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and in this new recording - alongside Lambert’s excerpts from Livre d’airs de cour and de Visée’s Chaconne - it demands attention as a masterpiece in its own right.
“Sophie Daneman and Roderick Williams are the lovers, while Elin Manahan Thomas leads the little Cupids (the girls of Salisbury Cathedral choir) in their ABC. Decoration is free and elegant, the accompanying programme of dances and songs (including Lambert's Vos mépris and De Visée's Chaconne) deliciously seductive.” The Independent on Sunday, 6th March 2011
“Sophie Daneman and Roderick Williams make a sensuous pair of lovers” The Guardian, 10th March 2011 ***
“Sophie Daneman delivers the recitative expressively, and rises magnificently to the challenge of Venus's despair. Adonis, less wimpish than Purcell's Aeneas, is sung with forthright, virile tone by Roderick Williams...Under Elizabeth Kenny's direction, the ensemble of strings and recorders shapes the dances gracefully.” Classic FM Magazine, May 2011 ****
“Sophie Daneman is a languid Venus and Roderick Williams is an ardent Adonis. Elin Manahan Thomas is an ideally light Cupid...Jason Darnell's virile Huntsman is a bit of a shock when he hurls out plenty of top Bs during a short passage but his contributions possess plenty of characterful verve...Not just a nice document of a good concert but a fine recording in its own right.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2011
“If anything could convince me that it was indeed a masterpiece, it would be a performance such as this one, refined, sparkling and intelligent as it is...Sophie Daneman is outstanding as Venus, both in the careless comic moments and in the magnificent final lament...the Theatre of the Ayre turns in a highly impressive performance, by turns subtle and powerful, rhythmically slick and very well balanced.” International Record Review, April 2011
“The true stars here are the band, led by Elizabeth Kenny, which extemporises and pushes tempos to giddy extremes. Elin Manahan Thomas steps boldly into Cupid's role, alternating deftly between the arch, the tender and the impassioned in a subtly nuanced performance.” BBC Music Magazine, May 2011 ***
Usually despatched in 3 - 4 working days.