David Horton / Julien Van Mellaerts / Toby Purser

Stanford: The Travelling Companion

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The Travelling Companion was Charles Villiers Stanford's final opera, and it had a rocky road after Stanford finished it in 1916. It went unproduced during World War I, became caught up in wrangling over a British national opera house, and was finally produced after Stanford's death. It had its champions at the time, including the young Michael Tippett, but by the late 1920s, it came off as a curiosity. It still does, to an extent, but as with much of Stanford's music, it's worth rediscovering. The opera is an adaptation, with a libretto by Henry Newbolt, of a kind of psychological fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. It features a princess who poses a riddle to a young man who wants to win her hand. However, the princess feels ambivalent about the whole thing, posing an odd riddle indeed, and the young man is accompanied by the mysterious titular companion, who inserts himself into the story violently. If you were going to be uncharitable, you could say that Stanford's music resembles what might have happened had Wagner and Arthur Sullivan collaborated on an opera (sample, perhaps the "Suitors?" chorus), but it's not dull, and Stanford effectively balances the story's festive aspects and its darker themes. The opera could certainly be put on a festival bill with Dvorák, or for that matter, with the similarly themed Turandot. The performances by the little-recorded New Sussex Opera are ideal, with performers fully audible despite the limitations of a live recording (the full text is also provided for CD buyers). Recommended.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Travelling Companion
1 05:41 Amazon
2 06:02 Amazon
3 04:34 Amazon
4 04:02 Amazon
5 06:52 Amazon
6 03:40 Amazon
7 02:49 Amazon
8 05:27 Amazon
9 08:17 Amazon
10 04:12 Amazon
11 02:51 Amazon
12 03:40 Amazon
13 06:29 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
The Travelling Companion
1 06:43 Amazon
2 05:07 Amazon
3 09:01 Amazon
4 03:53 Amazon
5 04:13 Amazon
6 02:58 Amazon
7 04:32 Amazon
8 03:28 Amazon
9 02:46 Amazon
10 02:45 Amazon
11 05:47 Amazon
12 05:50 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick