From its first publication in 1847, Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece Jane Eyre has inspiredinnumerable theatrical interpretations for both stage and screen. To mark the 200th anniversary of Brontë’s birth in 2016, and in anticipation of British composer John Joubert’s 90th birthday in 2017, Kenneth Woods and the English Symphony Orchestra will premiere Joubert’s opera based on Brontë’s first and most popular novel. Jane Eyre will receive its world premiere in a concert performance on 25 October 2016, at the Ruddock Performing Arts Centre in Birmingham. The SOMM label will be on hand to capture a live recording which is scheduled to be released in March 2017 to coincide with Joubert’s birthday.
Joubert’s Jane Eyre has been over two decades in the making, yet the seeds were sown as far back as 1969,
when the composer penned his song-cycle Six Poems Of Emily Brontë. He became drawn into the world of the Brontësisters and, perhaps inevitably, Jane Eyre. The result is a major operatic work with “a score of translucent beauty – Joubert’s undoubted magnum opus,” comments conductor Kenneth Woods. For the premiere, soprano April Fredrick will portray the title character and baritone David Stout – who previously collaborated with Woods on a SOMM recording of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen – will take on the role of Rochester. They will be joined by a full supporting cast. The librettist is Kenneth Birkin, a post-graduate student of Joubert’s at Birmingham University whose Ph.D. focused on the libretti of Strauss’s post-Hofmannsthal operas.Joubert’s output has been frequently inspired by great literature and he has set song cycles to the words of William Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy and D.H. Lawrence, among others. His two other major operas are Silas Marner (George Eliot) and Under Western Eyes(Joseph Conrad). Joubert explains, “The criterion I use for the selection of operatic subjects is that they should comment in some way on basic human issues, thus bringing them into line with the Enlightenment idea of theatre as a ‘School of Morals’.”Kenneth Woods remarks, “In Jane Eyre, John has created something very special – an opera based on a literary masterpiece in which the music is not only worthy of the original text but seems absolutely of and from it. Joubert emerges in this score as both a great literary and great musical mind. It’s astonishing that a work which is the crowning achievement of a composer as revered and important as John Joubert has had to wait almost two decades for a premiere performance and recording.The English Symphony Orchestra and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of this historic project in partnership with Siva Oke, SOMM’s owner and the Executive and Recording Producer of Jane Eyre,” says Woods. “It was due to Siva’s enthusiasm for Joubert’s music that the idea of recording Jane Eyre was born.” SOMM Recordings had previously recorded 80th and 85th birthday tributes to John Joubert, the second of which consisted of first recordings of his three String Quartets with the Brodsky Quartet.
Siva Oke says, “I first heard John Joubert’s music 10 years ago when pianist Mark Bebbington played his Lyric Fantasy based on themes from the love scene between Jane and Rochester in Act 2 of Jane Eyre. I was stunned by the beauty and lyricism of the music. When we recorded it, as part of John’s 80th birthday celebrations, Christopher Morley described it in his liner notes as luminous and radiant and I couldn’t agree more.”