British composer Jonathan Dove (born 1959) is best known internationally for his 1998 opera Flight and has written 20 other operas. Siren Song is a chamber opera about a personals ad scam: Davey, a British seaman looking for a girlfriend, answers an ad that leads him deeply into love with a woman who turns out to be imaginary, the creation of a con man who takes him for thousands of pounds. The libretto by Nick Dear, based on a book by Gordon Honeycombe, which was in turn based on a true story, is well constructed, and while being simple and predictable, it packs an emotional wallop. Dove is exceptionally skilled in writing for the theater; he has a sure dramatic sense for illuminating a situation and shaping a scene. He avoids the trap that dooms so many new operas that use a tonal idiom: a meandering lyricism unsupported by any purposeful, coherent musical logic. Dove creates meaningful musical structures that are clear and direct, and that move the action forward. His instrumentation, using a chamber ensemble, is inventive and colorful. He knows how to build to soaring lyrical climaxes, and it's easy so see why his operas have had such popular success. The simplicity and conventionality of his language -- its harmonic movement, use of repetition, and triadic melodies -- come close to being simplistic, though. The listener is left with the impression that if Dove were more adventurous -- incorporating more changes into his repetitive patterns, expanding the variety of his harmonic progressions, and occasionally allowing himself to break into a more chromatic language -- his work would be even more powerful. His theatrical sense is so astute that in spite of the fairly circumscribed musical parameters in which he works, his opera is strongly effective. It receives a superb performance in this recording of a production from the 2007 Grachtenfestival in the Netherlands. Principals Brad Cooper, Mattijs van de Woerd, and Amaryllis Dieltiens sing with warm, full-bodied lyricism. Henk Guittart leads the 10-member Siren Ensemble in a performance notable for its clarity and expressiveness. The sound of Chandos' live recording is crisp and immediate.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Siren Song, opera in one act|