01 febbraio 2017

Fa la sua comparsa in una sezione del sito dei Westbrook qualche traccia di una delle opere di Mike più raramente citate e meno conosciute, prive a tutt'oggi di documentazione ufficiale fatta eccezione per una registrazione audio prodotta nel 1994 dalla Radio 3 della BBC. Si tratta di Coming Through Slaughter, dedicata al leggendario cornettista Buddy Bolden vissuto a New Orleans sul finire dell'Ottocento e basata sull'omonimo romanzo biografico di Michael Ondaatje. L'adattamento di scena venne concepito per sette voci, quartetto d'archi e trombone a pistoni, secondo il libretto di Michael Morris redatto con i consigli di Kate Westbrook. Si può leggere una recensione del debutto londinese alla Queen Elizabeth Hall (12 agosto 1994) scritta da Rodney Milnes, e ascoltare due brevi estratti: Pontchartrain e Favourite Shirt.

"A chamber opera about a jazz musician in which the accompaniment is for string quartet is not in principle the likeliest of prospects, but then Mike Westbrook’s new piece, premiered as part of Cultural Industry’s Now You See It series at the QEH, is unlikely in other aspects as well. It is also a notable success, a new opera you want to hear again, and soon. Based on Michael Ondaatje’s novel of the same title and with a libretto by Michael Morris (who also directs) it is a poetic reconstruction of the life of the New Orleans cornet player Buddy Bolden, whose playing was never recorded and about whose career little is known. He died in a mental hospital in 1931. The fluid, dreamlike scenario treats Bolden as a Wozzeck figure, nudged towards his end by those around him: his wife, a pimp he may (or may not) have killed, a married couple with whom he enjoys a brief rustic idyll, a lowlife photographer, a schoolroom friend who becomes a policeman and follows rather than tracks him down. With a nod to history, we never hear him play, but the valve-trombonist who moves in with his wife adds a startling extra texture to the string-quartet accompaniment in the second of the two hour‐long acts. Westbrook’s lyrical, instantly communicative post-modern score wisely declines to ape jazz elements, although blues and ragtime obviously colour it, and to stirring effect. Words, music and structure pay little heed to operatic orthodoxies."