Rebirth of Reason

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Ca Ira
Roger Waters

Ca Ira CA IRA, released this past Tuesday, is an opera set during the time of the French Revolution, is the work of Pink Floyd bassist and lyricist Roger Waters. But though Waters is known more for his involvement with rock music, there are no guitars, there is no "caterwauling," or any Lloyd Weber rock opera conventions. I've only heard snippets of it so far, and not being a true opera afficianado, I honestly couldn't tell you how it rates as opera. But it seems to stick to traditional operatic conventions rather than try to be "modern."

The reason I am highlighting this, rather than recommending it, is the subtitle "There is Hope." Waters is usually known for his pessimistic themes of madness and war, overshadowing his more sentimental and hopeful side. The interesting thing that I've noticed is that his pessimism plays out more in the straightforward rock recordings, such as the psychotherapy of war and madness of THE WALL, the venom spat at politics and corrupt society in the Orwellian ANIMALS, and the crusade against religious wars broadcast in prime time for the masses of AMUSED TO DEATH. His more hopeful messages are expressed in operatic forms and ballads (notably "The Tide is Turning" from RADIO KAOS). His socialist and humanitarian politics aside, it is ironic that a rock star who wants to change the world had to turn to opera to finally subtitle an album "there is hope."

From the BMG Press release:

Waters' work on "Ça Ira," his first opera for full orchestra and voice, began in 1989, during the Bicentennial of the French Revolution. The well-respected and successful songwriter Etienne Roda-Gil and his wife, Nadine, had created an original libretto for an opera, written in French, as part of the Bicentennial. Entitled "Ça Ira," after a revolutionary song of the period, the Roda-Gil's original manuscript, copiously and beautifully illustrated by Nadine, portrayed the events and the spirit of the French Revolution through a multitude of perspectives--ranging from Marie Antoinette to the eyes and ears of the period's revolutionaries and common people--using a circus as a central theatrical framing device and metaphor.

Introduced to Etienne Roda-Gil by a mutual friend, Waters was immediately and deeply impressed by the passion and the power of Etienne's manuscript and began work on creating a full orchestral score for "Ça Ira." Work on the project was suspended when Nadine died tragically of leukemia. Several years passed before Roger and Etienne returned to "Ça Ira."

In 1997, Roger began writing an English version of the text. "It's not just a translation," he says. "I've stuck very much to the spirit of Etienne's original, adding to it somewhat. Although it's rooted in the history of the revolution, its philosophical slant is, I suppose, contemporary as well. It's more than just a history of the French Revolution, it's a piece about the human potential for change."

The finished version of "Ça Ira" features orchestration and choral arrangements by Rick Wentworth and Roger Waters, also the album's producers. Principal characters in the opera are brought to life by the Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel (the Ringmaster, the Troublemaker, Louis Capet - the King of France); internationally acclaimed soprano Ying Huang (Marie Marianne - the Voice of Liberty, Reason and the Republic, Marie Antoinette - the Queen of France); American tenor Paul Groves (A Revolutionary Priest, A Military Officer); and Senegalese "one man orchestra" Ismael Lo (a Revolutionary Slave). Other parts are sung by Jamie Bower (Honest Bird - the young Revolutionary Priest) and Helen Russill (Madame Antoine - the young Marie Antoinette).

Before the rise and fall of the guillotine, before the terror took hold, the People of France fought for a better world based on the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity rather than one ruled by a callous and outmoded nobility. It is this story of hope and promise that inspired "Ça Ira." Set during the optimistic early days of the French Revolution, "Ça Ira is a work of stunning power and beauty, invoking the passion, madness, and triumph of faith in a time that forever changed the nature of the world.
Added by Joe Maurone
on 9/29/2005, 7:37pm

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