Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy

Sir Harrison Birtwistle Punch and Judy
Punch and Judy

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy

Year of composition:
1966-1967
Subtitle:
A tragical comedy or comical tragedy in 1 act
Composer:
Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Original language:
English
Translator:
Iris Brendel (05.05.1983)
Librettist:
Stephen Pruslin (23.06.1966)
Roles:
Puppenpolly (witch), high soprano Judy (fortune-teller), mezzo-soprano Punch, high baritone Lawyer, high tenor Choregos (Jack Ketch), low baritone Doctor, bass 5 Dancers (mimes): 2 women, 3 men
Instrumentation:
1 1 1 1 - 1 1 1 0 - perc(2), hp, str.quin
Instrumentation details:
tpt, tbn - perc(2), hp, string quintet - on stage: fl (+ picc), ob (+ c.a, ob.d'a), cl(Bb) (+ cl(Eb), bass cl, soprano sax), bs (+ cbsn), hr
Commission:
Commissioned by the English Opera Group
Duration:
110’
Dedication:
dedicated to "my Pretty Polly"
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Audiosamples

Punch and Judy
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The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

 

 

Harrison Birtwistle based his full-length one-act piece on traditional county fair entertainment, working together with American pianist Stephen Pruslin, a long-time London resident. Composer and librettist created a stylised and ritualistic theatre piece in which the aggression and violence of the traditional material and Punch’s love for Pretty Polly are juxtaposed. Birtwistle’s music is a tour de force from the outset; Punch’s smile is simultaneously a terrifying grin, a father’s tenderness towards his baby is a murderous gesture as he throws the infant into the fire.

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World première

Location:
Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh (GB)
Date:
08.06.1968
Conductor:
David Atherton
Main soloists:
English Opera Group: Jenny Hill, Maureen Morelle, John Winfield, John Cameron, Geoffrey Chard, Wyndham Parfitt

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