Duration: 120 minutes
Commissioned by Percussion Group the Hague, New London Chamber Choir and Champ d'Action
First performance of semi-staged 2005 version: 11 May 2005, Norwich Cathedral
Sarah Leonard, Omar Ebrahim
Critical Band, Percussion Group the Hague, New London Chamber Choir
Conductor: Jonathan Stockhammer, Assistant conductor: David Lawrence,
Lighting Designer: Jo Joelson, Director: James Wood
Selected Press Comments from Hildegard 2005 UK Tour
'A virtuoso percussionist and electro-acoustician, James wood has created a dazzling parallel electronic sound world which spirals and zig-zags around the listener. Not surprisingly, too, the percussion writing is rich and vivid.'
'This uncompromising, multi-layered score is as far removed from, say, the gleaming vacuity of Lorin Maazel's 1984 - this month's other new opera - as you can get. If some came expecting to hear nuns in habits singing Hildegard's plainchant unadulterated, they will have been sweetly, or rudely, challenged. But there was enthusiastic applause from the capacity audience and many cheers, especially for the Devil.'
Fiona Maddocks, The Evening Standard, 16 May 2005
'... a chorus that attacked you from front, side and rear (the brilliantly drilled New London Chamber Choir), six frenetic drummers (Percussion Group The Hague) and an instrumental ensemble (the Critical Band) whose jagged fanfares were bounced electronically round the nave like aural boomerangs - well, it was all rather ear-popping and thrilling.'
'Wood's music, superbly conducted by Jonathan Stockhammer, owes a fair bit to Xenakis and Messiaen, notably in its ecstatic choral refrains, and virtually nothing to Hildegard's own chants. But it has tremendous drama too, especially when the performers spread around the cathedral and weave dozens of motifs into jangling cacophony.
What it deserves is a proper staging.'
Richard Morrison, The Times, 13 May 2005
'Overall a brilliant evening...The work was a triumph, and it was wonderful to see the beautiful old Benedictine Abbey with its echoes of Elgar approving. The final effect of the opera was the simplest, and most striking. As darkness fell during the performance the luminous stained glass of the mighty West Window darkened. With Jonathan Stockhammer conducting the closing pages of James Wood's wonderful score (and parallels with Parsifal are not over the top), external lighting illuminated the stained glass. Once again we saw that Art and Truth will always triumph over the everyday, the bland and the unadventurous.'