Composers: David Stanhope
Performers: Soloists, Virtual orchestra/David Stanhope
Catalogue Number: Tall Poppies TP262
Vampires have plagued popular culture for decades, but not often penetrated the realm of classical music. Australian composer David Stanhope’s opera fleshes out the bloodthirsty villain’s finest tale. Dracula opens with an orchestral blast, before weaving an unnerving narrative. The feel is classically dark with moments of demented dissonance; the title character is performed by bass Jud Arthur, his thick timbre sitting well among a team of singers, which also features impressive soprano Lorina Gore (as victim Lucy and as a vampire) and mezzo Silvia Colloca (Mina Harker and a vampire). “Ah, time for love,” the vampire women sing, turning quickly from otherworldy trance to intense obsession.
The notes include libretto with stage directions, which allows one to visualise the opera while reading along (though the singers’ diction is clean). It’s explicitly sexy, violent, and insane, drawing directly on Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. Stanhope himself writes: “It is hoped that this recording will demonstrate the opera’s potential for successful stage presentation.” In my view, it’s reached that potential – and while Dracula is certainly not a new tale, this contemporary realisation would be enormous fun should it be staged in full.
The album also contains a premiere recording of Stanhope’s revised Three Poems by Gwen Harwood; and the composer’s folk suite String Songs – a work dedicated to and worthy of Percy Grainger.