Relayed from the Assembly Room, City Hall
National Orchestra of Wales
Conducted by Warwick Braithwaite
Although born in Ireland, William Vincent Wallace was a Scot, as his name would certainly suggest. He had a rather adventurous career in many different parts of the world, and was thirty-two years old before producing his first opera, the evergreen Maritana. in London. The opera Lurline dates from some four years later, 1849, when its composer was in Germany, and where he had to some extent come under the influence of Chopin. The opera deals with the romantic part of the world in which he was then at home. It was produced in London in 1860, meeting with even greater success than Maritana; in many ways it is actually a better work, though it has not maintained its hold upon the public affections in the same way.
The Overture opens with a slow solemn introduction begun by the winds and with a fine flowing melody for the violins. A brilliant quick section follows, in which again the violins have a rousing tune; a rather wistful melody on flute and clarinet succeeds, the oboe afterwards joining, and again the vigorous mood of the opening is heard.
Don Carlos comes in the sequence of Verdi's works between the middle period which gave us Rigoletto and other evergreen favourites, and the last stage of his career, which began with Aida. The scene is laid in Spain in the days of the ruthless Philip II, and the story deals with the tragedy of Philip's son, Don Carlos, who is in love with his stepmother, Elizabeth of Valois. This air is sung in the fourth Act by the Princess Eboli, who is in love with Don Carlos, and who becomes the instrument of his downfall through her jealousy of the Queen, when she learns of the Prince's love for Elizabeth.
This extract is taken from the second Act of Siegfried. With his father's sword, which he had himself forged from the broken pieces that came down to him; Siegfried has slain the dragon and won from it the treasure made from the Rhinegold and the magic Ring itself. The touch of the dragon's blood has given him power to understand the birds, and at this part of the opera he is lying on his back under the trees listening, as they tell him of the wondrous maid who lies asleep mid a ring of fire.
The story of Parsifal, as remodelled by Wagner from the old legends, is briefly as follows:
The Grail has been given into the keeping of Titurel and his Knights. They have, too, the holy spear with which the soldier pierced our Lord's side upon the Cross. Titurel has built a great castle, Montsalvat, to guard these sacred relics against a pagan world and especially against the magician Klingsor, who with the help of his Flower Maidens and the arch-enchantress, Kundry endeavours to seduce the Knights. Amfortas, son of the old Titurel, has been overcome by the magician's arts, and has been forced to leave in his hands the sacred spear, with which he himself was sorely wounded when Klingsor seized it. Nothing can heal the wound save a touch of the spear, and it has been prophesied to the Knights that only a guileless fool can avail to win it back for them. Parsifal, our English Sir Percivale, is the guileless Knight who in the end overcomes Klingsor's magic and not only restores the spear to Amfortas's keeping, but wins Kundry to abandon her sorceries and join the service of the Grail, to find death and forgiveness in the last mystic scene when Amfortas is healed and the radiance of the Grail is shed again over its Knights.
The Good Friday Music is in the third Act; Parsifal comes to the aged Knight Gurnemanz, who is now a hermit beside his forest spring, and on whom the repentant Kundry is now waiting. The old Knight tells Parsifal that it is Good Friday morning, and that the first spring flowers of the year are waking refreshed by the tears of penitents. The themes of the Grail and of Faith are heard in this beautiful extract, as well as the melody played by the oboe, which has the name 'the Good Friday Spell.'
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