The impeccable credentials of Australian composer Nicholas Vines include studying at the University of Sydney with Anne Boyd, Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards, and working with Brian Ferneyhough and Sir Harrison Birtwistle during a PhD at Harvard. He describes himself as “firmly rooted in the technical resources of the Western classical canon” while embracing new compositional developments and technologies. His latest release on German record label Navonna exemplifies this.
Loose, Wet, Perforated was commissioned by Boston-based Guerilla Opera and takes the medieval morality play as its starting point. The action takes place in (something like) a medieval guildhall, with two characters, Loose (Aliana de la Guardia) and Wet (Brian Church) vying for guild membership by competing in a series of ordeals while Perforated (Doug Dodson) narrates and interferes. The vocal roles, particularly Perforated’s (for countertenor) reflect Vines’ expertise in early operatic forms, with characteristic ornaments and trills, and the libretto (also written by Vines) is laden with Early Modern innuendo (“And my buns underdone”…!).
Scored for an unusual ensemble of clarinets, saxophones, trombone and percussion and employing a minimal aesthetic, the resulting opera is at once hyper-modern but grounded in ancient forms, and in the utterly assured hands of Nicholas Vines, it succeeds excitingly.