George Lloyd: Iernin - An Opera in Three Acts
Iernin, one of three operas written by George Lloyd, was written between July 1933 and June 1934. It was first performed at the Pavilion, Penzance, during the week of November 5-10, 1934. Subsequently it ran for a short season at the Lyceum, London, during June 1935. This recording is taken from a BBC broadcast. Performers include Geoffrey Pogson, Henry Herford, Malcolm Rivers, Jonathon Robarts, Jeremy White, Stephen Jackson, Marilyn Hill Smith, Claire Powell, Marion Fiddick, Kate Lock and Hedley Goodall. The BBC Concert Orchestra and Singers were conducted by George Lloyd. The story takes place in West Penwith in Cornwall around 950 A.D. and is based on characters from the Celtic Faery World.
3 CD Set includes 30 minute conversation between George Lloyd and the opera producer Chris De Souza.
The work has an interesting history. It originated from a late-night conversation George Lloyd and his father had with a friend on their return from a visit to Covent Garden. Opera in England and English opera were both found wanting. The friend, Penzance's indefatigable amateur impresario, Walter Barnes, proposed a school for Cornish opera: "You write it, I'll put it on". Four days later the father came up with a libretto, and George began to wander the moors around Zennor. Within a year the opera was complete, the friend was as good as his word, and by the happiest of chances Frank Howes, The Times's critic, taking his holidays in Cornwall, attended the première and loved it. A London season followed in 1935, playing to enthusiastic houses and defeated only by the heat-wave which emptied the theatres that summer.
The recording was made in 1985 from a broadcast which went out the following year. Its producer, Chris de Souza conducts and excellent interview with the composer on the final track of the third disc. At the London première, The Times found the opera spontaneous in invention and almost consistently effective. More important is the writing for soloists, and on the whole this seems instinctively expert: for instance, the high notes are sparingly required, so that when they occur they have maximum effect. The heroine's role wants a coloratura soprano who also has a substantial middle and lower-middle register. That should not be too much to ask, but I fear it is, and one can only guess at the kind of Italianate full-bodied sound that was probably in the composer's ear when he wrote the work. Marilyn Hill-Smith ids more successful with the higher, more agile and less dramatic parts of the role. All the male principals have splendidly singable music, but the best performance comes from Claire Powell, sumptuous of voice and noble of manner in the role which at the Lyceum was shared between a formidable pair of contraltos, Astra Desmond and Edith Furmedge. The orchestral playing is fine and responsive to impulse. Recorded sound is clear. The booklet contains no essay or historical note, but the interview (on disc 3) largely makes up for that. JBS Gramophone
"George Lloyd showed that rarest of all qualities in a British composer, an almost unerring perception of what the stage requires. An extraordinary achievement" The Times
"One of the most successful operas written by a British composer" The Musical Times
"many notable moments including the multi-part choral writing for 'The Giant of Carn Galva' and the magical closing chorus...in fact the whole of the final scene...is impressive...the lovely aria 'The Spell is Past' is reminiscent of Puccini in its Romantic intensity" BBC Music Magazine