Gerald Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest

Gerald Barry: The Importance of Being Earnest

NMC Recordings
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Gerald Barry's riotous opera brings out the savagery beneath the genteel Edwardian manners of Wilde's play: its score includes gunshots, whistling and speaking from the orchestral players, marching boots, and the smashing of 40 dinner plates, while its characters - among them Lady Bracknell sung by bass Alan Ewing - shout through gales, quote Schiller's Ode to Joy (in German) and make polite conversation through megaphones.

Barbara Hannigan soprano   Cecily Cardew
Peter Tantsits tenor             Jack Worthing
Joshua Bloom baritone         Algernon Moncrieff
Katalin Károlyi mezzo-soprano      Gwendolen Fairfax
Hilary Summers contralto         Miss Prism
Alan Ewing bass             Lady Bracknell
Benjamin Bevan bass         Lane/Merriman
Joshua Hart speaker             Dr Chasuble

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Thomas Adès conductor




‘Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest seems to have achieved the status of a contemporary classic. This riotous recording by BCMG under Thomas Adès is sure to help its fame and popularity spread ... The pyrotechnics of soprano Barbara Hannigan as Cecily are pretty unbeatable’ Opera Now ★★★★★

'Barry's operatic take on Oscar Wilde's most famous play emerges as vividly on disc as it has subsequently done in the opera house ... the expert performances [are to be] marvelled at' Guardian

‘Gerald Barry magnifies the fizzy quality into a relentless high-wire act that has the audience relishing the stamina of the performers, here under the needle-sharp control of ringmaster-in-chief Thomas Adès. Laughter and applause – as when a large number of dinner plates (they must be white) are smashed – do not seriously disrupt a performance remarkable for its energy and accuracy, atmospherically recorded. […] a CD makes crystal –clear chat a dedicated musical maverick can do with a treasured literary antique usually thought to be beyond parody.’ Gramophone

‘The eccentricity is so carefully controlled by both composer and conductor – I started off completely perplexed but soon found myself laughing out loud.’ Martin Cullingford – Gramophone Editor

'One of the wittiest, most pungently scored works since Shostakovich's The Nose ... had me laughing out loud at the sheer brilliance of the writing and infectious energy of the performance' BBC Radio 3 'CD Review'

‘Soprano Barbara Hannigan is simply astonishing as Cecily Cardew, sometimes singing on the nosebleed end of the scale’ The Bay Area Reporter

‘Surely this is not only the best operatic treatment of Oscar Wilde since Strauss’s Salome, but also one of the few absolutely essential operas of the last 20 years’ BBC Music Magazine 

‘This is a superb live recording – edgy, brilliantly sung and boasting electrifying playing from Thomas Adès’ Birmingham Contemporary Music Group ... It’s bonkers, in a good way ... Highly recommended’ The Arts Desk

‘Gerald has become a touchstone in my creative life. He is like a new drug: addictive, probably untested and probably illegal … but I know he will make me better.’ Barbara Hannigan, BBC Music Magazine

‘If there was ever a text to which the music should be fitted, this is it, but Barry does just the opposite. He writes scintillating music, much of it very fast, and then shoehorns the words into it, regardless of where the accented syllables, a joke’s timing, or an exchange of repartee falls. The result is a dramatic chaos which projects its own manic charm.’ American Record Guide 


Thanks to the trusts and foundations that have supported this release as part of NMC’s Anniversary Opera Series:

The John S Cohen Foundation
The Finzi Trust
The Nicholas John Trust
The Monument Trust
The N Smith Charitable Settlement
Surrey Square Trust

and to the donors who contributed through NMC’s 25th anniversary Opera Appeal including:

Jonathan Goldstein
Paul Henderson
Martyn Leighton
Robert McFarland
John Summerscales
Moya & John Tomlinson

Produced in association with BBC Radio 3


Recorded by BBC Radio 3 live at the Barbican Hall, London, 26 April 2012
LINDSAY KEMP for BBC Radio 3, Recording Producer     
MARVIN WARE, VICTORIA OSWALD & TANYA BHOOLA for BBC Radio 3, Recording Engineers    

(P) 2014 BBC
© 2014 NMC Recordings Ltd

Catalogue number: NMC D197
Release Date: 22 September 2014