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James MacMillan - Clemency

World Première Recording (live recording of staged performances)

Clemency is the third operatic collaboration between the composer James MacMillan and the poet Michael Symmons Roberts to date – a chamber opera which explores a central but enigmatic episode in the Old Testament: Abraham and Sarah are visited by three mysterious strangers giving them the joyous information that Sarah will bear a child, but also letting them know of their intention to destroy the neighbouring towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. The composer himself has commented that Clemency is set in the present day and ‘is not intended as a Biblical drama in the old Hollywood style. Abraham and Sarah are modern people and they’re visited by three strange but modern figures who, it turns out, have something terroristic about them. There is something of the ancient and the modern in the piece; the ancient, Biblical tale but also the kinds of thing people face today in many parts of the world.’ Composed in 2009-10, Clemency was commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera, together with the Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Scottish Opera and Britten Sinfonia. For the first U.S. production of the one-act work, Boston Lyric Opera decided, with the approval of the composer and librettist, to introduce the figure of Hagar, servant to Sarah but also the mother of Abraham’s first child, Ishmael. This is done by incorporating a version of Schubert’s early song Hagar’s Lament as a prelude to this opera which challenges us to measure the impact of our lives in a modern world that continues to be marked politically and spiritually by acts of mercy and acts of vengeance.
Choose format
  Franz Schubert
01 Introduction: Abraham’s chant 1'19
  Franz Schubert
  Hagar’s Lament
02 Hagar: Here on a hill of burning sand 14'37
  James MacMillan
  Clemency - Scene 1 (Sarah, Abraham) 6'24
03 Abraham’s chant 4'29
04 Duet: What is the measure of our years? 1'55
  James MacMillan
  Clemency - Scene 2 (Sarah, Abraham, Travellers) 24'48
05 Abraham: No-one can walk far in this heat 7'23
06 Travellers: Gold has lost its light 5'06
07 Chant of the Travellers; Sarah and Abraham: Who are these angels? 6'12
08 Sarah: Three strangers bring a gift to me 6'07
  James MacMillan
  Clemency - Scene 3 (Sarah, Abraham, Travellers, Hagar)
09 Abraham: Who are you? 4'01
  James MacMillan
  Clemency - Scene 4 (Sarah, Abraham, Travellers)
10 Sarah: And the good? 4'38
  James MacMillan
  Clemency - Scene 5 (Sarah)
11 Sarah’s lament: Months from now 2'23
  Album total 58'55
ComposerMacMillan, James
Schubert, Franz
ConductorAngus, David
OrchestraBoston Lyric Opera Orchestra
BaritoneKravitz, David
McFerrin, David
SopranoAbraham, Christine
Trainor, Michelle
TenorFerreira, Neal
Levine, Samuel
PianoHodgdon, Brett

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