BBC Music Magazine

Opera Award

John Andrews


Arnold The Dancing Master

Mark Wilde, Ed Lyon, Fiona Kimm, Graeme Broadbent, Catherine Carby, Eleanor Dennis; BBC Concert Orchestra/ John Andrews Resonus Classics RES10269

‘Too bawdy for family audiences,’ was the BBC’S reason for rejecting Malcolm Arnold’s short opera The Dancing

Master in 1952. Originally destined for television, the work laguished in relative obscurity until John Andrews and others resurrecte­d it for this colourful premiere recording. As soon as he got to know the work, the conductor realised it was a gem that needed rediscover­ing: ‘The joyous energy and comedy jumped off the page and I was immediatel­y struck by how good the music was.’

Arnold was in the throes of one of his busiest periods of writing at this time, with concert works and film scores keeping him occupied. He worked fast, too, and The Dancing Master was no exception – indeed, the librettist Joe Mendoza received a full score from Arnold when he was merely expecting comments. This was their third attempt at an opera and the first to be completed, and yet it still didn’t see the light of day. Such a riotous farce didn’t sit comfortabl­y with the conservati­sm of the early 1950s; Andrews is convinced it was just a little ahead of its time. ‘Of course, by 1962 this sort of humour was absolutely the staple of BBC Radio with Round the Horn, and then there were the Carry On films. So it really shows you how the world changed in ten years.’

Musically, The Dancing Master is an intricate piece that requires hard work from the cast, as Andrews shares: ‘You need singers who are really able to deal with Arnold’s complex harmonies and you also need fantastic actors; there’s no point in doing a show like this if you don’t have people with the charisma to really bring these characters, that are almost caricature­s, to life.’

It’s the performanc­es that truly set this recording apart; and with its success, Arnold’s operatic oddity has finally found its audience.

 ??  ?? A time to dance:
John Andrews champions a Malcolm Arnold rarity
A time to dance: John Andrews champions a Malcolm Arnold rarity
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom