SIR CHARLES MACKERRAS, MASTER CONDUCTOR: A PROFILE
The WFMT Radio Network Presents Part 2 of ‘Sir Charles Mackerras, Master Conductor – a Profile’: commemorating the great conductor’s life, career and influence, at the 90th anniversary of his birth. This documentary is underwritten by the Buonacorsi Foundation and is hosted by Lisa Flynn and produced by Jon Tolansky.
12 Music Director at Sadler’s Wells – English National Opera – 1970
MUSIC 1: TRAVIATA BRINDISI
Alfredo toasts Violetta at her party and strongly hints he is in love with her. An extract from a recording of Verdi’s La traviata that was made with an English cast and conductor who had brought to the Sadler’s Wells Opera what was hailed as a new international standard of Italian opera performance in the 1970s. Valerie Masterson and John Brecknock were singing under the direction of Sir Charles Mackerras who had become the Music Director in 1970, inaugurating a vital new era in the Company’s history. During the 7 years of his tenure, during which Sadler’s Wells Opera became the English National Opera, he was crucially responsible for nurturing a new school of outstanding English singers as well as a first class orchestra that garnered high praise for its new artistic versatility – the result of his painstaking and very practical work imparting his mastery of a vast range of styles to the players, as former members of the orchestra, composer Carlo Martelli and conductor Leslie Lake recall.
INTERVIEW 2-1: CARLO MARTELLI
INTERVIEW 2-2: LESLIE LAKE
And that was because he was so intensely absorbed in the music he conducted and passionately wanted to share it with the orchestra, as another former member of the orchestra, conductor and writer Tom Higgins remembers.
INTERVIEW 2-3: TOM HIGGINS
MUSIC 2: MARIA STUARDA
The opening scene of Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda, recorded live at the London Coliseum. A prestigious cast conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras included Dame Janet Baker as Maria, and in the role of Talbot, the bass Sir John Tomlinson.
INTERVIEW 2-4: JOHN TOMLINSON
MUSIC 3: MARIA STUARDA DUET
Talbot comforts Mary Stuart – Mary Queen of Scots – and she prepares to face her execution. Sir John Tomlinson and Dame Janet Baker, with the English National Opera Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, in Donizetti’s opera Maria Stuarda.
Sir John was at that time one of the outstanding young English singers whom Sir Charles encouraged and nurtured in repertoire that was new for them, as was the soprano Valerie Masterson.
INTERVIEW 2-5: VALERIE MASTERSON
And that was how the remainder of the cast felt when Charles Mackerras introduced Der Rosenkavalier to the English National Opera. Particularly with his performances of that work he was giving them, and also the orchestra, a new self-confidence as an international company with a worldwide status.
INTERVIEW 2-6: CHARLES MACKERRAS
Sir Charles Mackerras, speaking with our producer Jon Tolansky there in 2004. And one of the new generation of English singers who Sir Charles guided for an internationally prestigious career at the English National Opera was Valerie Masterson.
INTERVIEW 2-7: VALERIE MASTERSON
MUSIC 4: CAESAR ACT 3
Cleopatra’s aria Stormy winds my ship had shaken, from Handel’s Julius Caesar. Very fast, yes, but crucially Sir Charles was also able to be a flexible and very subtle accompanist to a singer. Here he is with Valerie Masterson in Cleopatra’s aria Hear my prayer, o gods, relenting, – as Cleopatra prays to the gods to protect Caesar’s life.
MUSIC 5: CAESAR ACT 2
INTERVIEW 2-8: VALERIE MASTERSON
MUSIC 5: CONTINUED
Valerie Masterson and the English National Opera Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras in Cleopatra’s aria Hear my prayer, o gods, relenting from the second act of Handel’s Julius Caesar.