Harrison Birtwistle's 'Gawain,' Part 2

« previous episode | next episode »

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gawain and the Green Knight (Artist unknown/Wikipedia Commons)

This week the Brothers Balliett continue to explore one of opera's most exciting works from the last 25 years: Harrison Birtwistle's Gawain. Based on Arthurian legend, this intensely beautiful, at times groovy, and always poundingly psychological thriller traces the progress of the knight Gawain as he foolishly agrees to a deal with the Green Knight. 

Last week we heard Act 1, in which Gawain chops off the head of the Green Knight, but on the condition that one year later, the Green Knight gets to return the favor.

This week we hear the first half of Act 2, in which Gawain travels to the Green Chapel to keep his appointment with the Green Knight. When he arrives a few days early, he finds lodging with Bertilak, a nobleman who makes an even weirder deal with Gawain. And Bertilak's wife has her own ideas about how she'd like the weekend to go...

To offset the intensity and scale of this opera, we offer a crystalline and gorgeous orchestral work by Luigi Dallapiccola – the perfect pairing and palate cleanser for the meaty Birtwistle. 


Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.