David Charles Abell

Jonathan Dove: Tobias and the Angel

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British composer Jonathan Dove's Tobias and the Angel has received numerous performances since its 1999 premiere at the Almeida Festival, and this 2006 recording comes from a production at London's Young Vic Theatre. David Ian's economical libretto sticks closely to the story from the Apocryphal Book of Tobit, but with enough anachronisms to allow it to be interpreted as a more universal Jewish folk tale, and to allow Dove to draw on klezmer traditions to color the score. Dove clearly understands opera and how to shape a dramatically apt score that builds to a powerful, emotionally satisfying climax. The opera begins modestly, fitting easily into the stylized genre of "church opera," but its cumulative impact is surprisingly resonant and moving, and it ultimately transcends its genre. The music is lyrical and mostly tonal, but avoids sounding facile or hackneyed, and it is characterized by a lovely geniality. John Adams is an obvious inspiration for some of the text-setting and harmonic movement, but Dove manages to keep the influence under control except in the painfully derivative first chorus. Dove handles the chamber ensemble with exceptional skill, and the inventiveness and delicate grace of the instrumentation is one of the score's greatest strengths. David Charles Abell leads the instrumental ensemble with crisp precision and draws a full, warm sound from the chorus and children's chorus. Among the soloists, tenor Darren Abrahams as Tobias, counter tenor James Laing as Raphael, baritone Omar Ebrahim as Tobit, and mezzo-soprano Karina Lucas as Sara are outstanding. Chandos' sound is clean and present. Tobias and the Angel is a piece that should delight fans of lyrically expressive new opera.

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