On the 25th of October, the English Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with Somm Recordings, presented a concert that will be remembered and discussed for many years to come.
The audience and orchestra musicians rose to their feet in unanimous acclaim for composer
John Joubert on the occasion of the world premiere of his magnum opus, J
ane Eyre- An Opera in Two Acts.
Now the critics have spoken. Follow the links below to learn more about the reaction to this historic evening for British opera.
"Five Stars. The tears in our eyes at the end of this professional première of John Joubert's Jane Eyre were quickened not only by the ravishing music of Jane and Rochester's reconciliation, but also by the sheer emotional importance of the occasion...on Tuesday Joubert's vision was finally fulfilled...the
near-ninety year-old acknowledged thunderous applause after a tremendous performance of a wonderful score... with an adroit libretto by Kenneth Birkin."--
Chris Morley, Birmingham Post
"As a timely reminder of the melodic strengths and potency of Joubert's music this fine performance with April Fredrick as Jane, David Stout as Rochester and Mark Milhofer as the Reverend St John Rivers, certainly did the trick."--
Andrew Clements, The Guardian
"...April Fredrick sang with a lyrically gleaming soprano, soaring rapturously on Joubert's singer-friendly lines. David Stout supplied virile tone as Rochester...Kenneth Woods conducted a well-prepared performance that ought on disc to win new admirers for the operatic Joubert'" --
John Allison, Daily Telegraph
"...Joubert and his librettist Kenneth Birkin have taken the Eugene Onegin approach, extracting six key scenes from a well-loved novel and going straight for their emotional heart. Some critics have grumbled about a lack of narrative continuity; I couldn't feel it myself, and Joubert's luminous, ardently lyrical score (think Britten without his splinter of ice) is disarmingly direct. David Stout made a suitably brusque and Byronic Rochester, but it was April Fredrick as Jane who really carried the whole thing. Whether flashing with defiance or soaring rapturously and with radiant tone over a surging orchestra, she looked - and sounded - as if she needed to be on stage. Jane Eyre itself certainly does." --
Richard Bratby, The Spectator
The support from cast members was exemplary, and the orchestra...in the warm and immediate acoustic of Birmingham's Ruddock Hall, sounded polished and vibrant...there was an added poignancy in the standing ovation, and a feeling that something of real value had taken place: an important contribution to the repertoire, deserving of a place on the world opera stage." --
Pamela Nash, Bachtrack
The first professional performance of the two-act opera Jane Eyre was recorded by Somm...the 2 CD set release will be quite an event and to be there to hear the performance was a delight...a passionate work and full of heart...this was all so well done...we can look forward to the release of what is likely to prove a glowing entry in the annals of recorded English opera."--
Rob Barnett, MusicWeb-International
|Soprano April Fredrick (Jane Eyre) and composer John Joubert
"A world première positively reeking of drama and tension...it took this Birmingham audience by storm. Fredrick was utterly absorbing to listen to...Stout matched her at every turn...the English Symphony Orchestra as committed and on the ball as I've heard them...conducted throughout with wonderful command and control by Kenneth Woods...recorded live by the ever bold and imaginative Somm recordings...the genuinely exciting evening was such a treat: a truly rich experience."
Roderic Dunnett, Music and Vision Daily
"....the work makes a powerful impact... April Fredrick captured the development of the character well, and made all the words tell. Her voice is warm and attractive across a wide range and the resolve of the character shone through. David Stout's brooding Rochester was also impressive, and his incisive and mellifluous voice was shown at its appreciable best. He and Fredrick blended well, particularly in the final reflective encounter with its open ending. The other singers all performed their limited roles well - Mark Milhofer standing out as Richard Mason and the Reverend Rivers in two nicely delineated cameos. Kenneth Woods conducted with aplomb, and the recording is much looked forward to."
Alexander Campbell at The Classical Source
"Such abilities were in abundance with tenor Mark Milhofer whose principal role was as the Rev. St. John Rivers, the material of Joubert and Birkin allowing him to portray a 'fire and brimstone' of a preacher. When Rivers implores Jane to come to India with him, Jane clearly wrestles with her response and hears the haunting cries of Rochester 'Jane! Jane! Jane!' Milhofer and Fredrick together with Joubert's dynamic orchestration produced the finest scene of the evening - the emotional climax of the opera - a moment that I thought illustrated the composer's Wagnerian influence. Milhofer was equally effective in his second role, the vindictive Richard Mason, Rochester's brother-in-law, intent upon presenting some 'just cause and impediment'-- Geoff Read, Seen and Heard International
The Artist's Perspective
'Music, when soft voices die...vibrates in the memory' (Percy Shelley) Two days after the recording and premiere of Jane Eyre with David Stout, Mark Milhofer, Gwion Thomas, Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra, these lines by Shelley capture my sensations, along with this portion of Kenneth Birkin's marvellous libretto: This is the sweetest hour. The sun going down in simple state Sheds golden blessings on mankind. Extending high and soft and wide The radiant heavens over... Lingers as I do... loth to leave this ..."
Soprano April Fredrick
from her blog post "
Afterglow of a Instant Classic"
The View from the Pit
A profoundly moving player's perspective on Jane Eyre from ESO cellist and author, Alice McVeigh
"His night. His opera. His triumph. Of music he'd at one time despaired of ever hearing, of one of the works existing closest to his heart. And Anna wasn't the only one in tears: no, we were all in tears, at least in the violas and celli, and you can shove this on my tombstone (because it practically killed me but it was a true highlight of my cello-playing life, better than playing with the Hanover Band in Carnegie Hall, better than playing under Sir John Eliot Gardiner in the Lincoln Center, better than almost any concert with the BBC Symphony or Royal Philharmonic I ever did ...)
"I played in the premiere of Joubert's Jane Eyre.
"In Leonard Bernstein's words from his Mass, about the Creation of the world:
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