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9 October 2008

Songs of Joy by Dean in Liverpool

premiere generates interest in opera-in-progress

Brett Dean Image: Brett Dean  

Simon Rattle's return to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, as part of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture, has attracted a lot of attention in the British media. Some of this attention has now been directed to the program of the evening, and to the world premiere of a new Australian work. The concert consisted of extracts from Wagner's Götterdämmerung and Sibelius's fifth symphony, which Rattle first conducted at his debut with the orchestra 33 years ago, as well as the premiere of Brett Dean's Songs of Joy, commissioned for the orchestra by the Liverpool Culture Company.

The 'Joy' of the title is Harry Joy, the protagonist of Peter Carey's first novel, Bliss, and of Dean's opera-in-progress based on that novel. The songs were sung by the Australian baritone Peter Coleman Wright, and the almost universallly positive critical response is generating interest in the opera itself.

'The instrumental writing is fascinating, with individual effects adding to the texture, though never at the expense of the music's impetus', wrote The Independent of Songs of Joy.

'...Dean's songs – eerily atmospheric, or punchily sardonic in Kurt Weill style – strike me as the best things he has written', wrote The Times.

After leaving his native Liverpool, Simon Rattle went on to build the worldwide reputation of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and is now the principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – the orchestra in which Brett Dean played viola for over 15 years. Rattle has conducted works by Dean on several earlier occasions.

The premiere of Bliss is in Opera Australia's schedule for 2010.

Subjects discussed by this article:

As a national service organisation, the Australian Music Centre is dedicated to increasing the profile and sustainability of Australian composers and other creative artists. The AMC facilitates the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these artists through: composer and other creative artist representation and assistance; resonate – its online magazine; library and retail services; sheet music publishing; and the management, administration and publication of project-based initiatives. Its library collection holds over 30,000 items by more than 500 artists.


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