Roger Waters

Ça Ira

When rock types aspire to a sort of respectability by working in the distinguished symphonic idiom (e.g., Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio), there's usually hell to pay. Pop fans don't understand the resulting work, while classical critics lambaste the composer as a dilettante. In spite of these laws, ex-Pink Floyd bassist/songwriter Roger Waters composed an opera based on the French Revolution. Ça Ira is not rock opera or rock/classical fusion, but a multicharacter dramatic work resembling that of Mozart and Wagner (but sung in English), featuring established singers (Bryn Terfel, Ying Huang), an orchestra, and three choirs. The only commonality with Waters' Floyd contributions is usage of a children's choir (intentionally?), recalling "The Wall." Ira recounts upheaval from assorted perspectives: Queen Marie Antoinette, a politicized priest, a slave (Senegalese singer Ismael Lo), even the pope (who, refusing to endorse the Rights of Man Declaration, backed the monarchy). The singers' portrayals are palpably stirring; the music, albeit rather conservative compared to the work of contemporary composers such as John Adams or George Crumb, is melodiously melodramatic, full of swirling, sighing strings and resounding crescendos. Defying his forebears, this Waters kid shows potential in this field.

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