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Major orchestral commissions soon followed and Crosse's first opera, Purgatory, based on the ghostly play by Yeats, was given at Cheltenham in 1966 [Argo LP ZRG 810]. Crosse returned to Aldeburgh with The Grace of Todd, given by the English Opera Group in the Jubilee Hall in 1969, and there are two more operas involving young people.

Gordon Crosse (c) 1999 NMC Recordings Ltd.

These stage works, as well as ballets such as Wildboy (1980) for American Ballet Theatre and Young Apollo (1984) for The Royal Ballet, show Crosse's instinct for characterisation and drama. This is also particularly true of the first work on this CD -- Memories of Morning: Night, a monodrama for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, written for Meriel Dickinson who gave the first performance at the Royal Festival Hall in 1971 and again at the Proms in 1973 both with the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Colin Davis. The tragic story comes from Jean Rhys' West Indian novel, Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), which I've just enjoyed re-reading. Crosse's music catches the tropical climate, the weird superstitions and the corrosive hatreds left behind after the abolition of slavery. The novel draws on Jean Rhys' own West Indian upbringing and her obsession with the first Mrs. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. The mezzo is Antoinette whose father, a decadent slave-owner who drank himself to death, married a much younger woman. In Part 1 (Coulibri) Antoinette's mother makes what turns be out to an unsuitable second marriage; their house is burnt down by the natives; and she goes mad. Part 2 (Thornfield) is concerned with the madness of Antoinette herself, who is kept indoors and guarded closely. Not closely enough, however, since her childhood horror is about to be re-enacted as -- at the end of the work -- she sets out to burn down the house where she has been held captive.

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Copyright © 6 January 2001 Peter Dickinson, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, UK







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