Personalities | Michael Tippett | Modern Era | Opera

1905–98, English

Tippett began his musical studies at the age of 18, wrote his first significant work aged 30, and was 41 when he embarked on his first opera, The Midsummer Marriage (composed 1946–52, premiered 1955). Despite his relatively late development in the operatic genre, he soon became a composer of international recognition.

Referencing Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (1791) with regard to how the protagonists must endure physical trials that test their spiritual love, so Tippett’s couple in The Midsummer Marriage have to find the light of self and mutual understanding by way of knowledge and communication. Boasting a bucolic setting and lush, lyric and tonal beauty reminiscent of Elgar, The Midsummer Marriage was not an immediate success, yet it has become one of Tippett’s most important operatic works.

In all, he composed five operas, each very different in terms of structure and theme. The ancient Greek legend of King Priam (1962) examines the consequences of personal decisions, while The Knot Garden (1970) explores material economy by compressing 32 scenes into 90 minutes, melding traditional opera with jazz and blues. The Ice Break (1977), set in an airport lounge, draws on cultural and literary references in dealing with the topic of racial inequality, while his final opera, New Year (1989), is his most perplexing and contrived, uneasily merging classical themes with elements such as rap.

Introduction | Modern Era | Opera
Major Operas | The Midsummer Marriage by Michael Tippett | Modern Era
Major Operas | King Priam by Michael Tippett | Modern Era
Personalities | Mark-Anthony Turnage | Modern Era | Opera


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