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World Premiere Recording Of Stephen Dodgson's MARGARET CATCHPOLE: TWO WORLDS APART to Be Released

The opera will be released on 29 January 2021.

The world premiere recording of Stephen Dodgson's chamber opera Margaret Catchpole: Two Worlds Apart is due to be released by Naxos on 29 January 2021, nearly eight years after the composer's death.

Margaret Catchpole is a four-act chamber opera which was premiered over 40 years ago in 1979. The day before he died in 2013, Dodgson told his wife, Jane Clark Dodgson, "we must do something about Margaret Catchpole". Jane went on to set up the Stephen Dodgson Charitable Trust to encourage performances and recordings of Stephen's work.

This recording was made during a performance of the work and in subsequent recording sessions at the Britten Studios, Snape Maltings in 2019, fulfilling the composer's wish to revisit the work. Conductor Julian Perkins frequently collaborated with Stephen on his music and conducts Perpetuo, a collective of musicians founded by oboist James Turnbull, in this recording. Alongside the likes of Matthew Brook and Richard Edgar-Wilson, the cast includes a number of young singers in leading roles, reflecting Stephen's love of working with and supporting young up-and-coming artists throughout his career, with Australian mezzo-soprano Kate Howden in the title role. Kate Howden studied with the late mezzo-soprano Ameral Gunson, who was the original Margaret Catchpole in 1979.

Julian Perkins, conductor on this recording, said, "This project has been one of the highlights of my musical career to date. The opera's roller-coaster of human emotions, as evinced in the febrile nervousness of Will Laud and the heart-breaking vulnerability of Margaret Catchpole's love for him, magnify our own life experiences and attest to the uplifting qualities of Stephen's wondrous music."

Richard Edgar-Wilson, who plays the role of Crusoe in this recording, explains that "Stephen's music is tonal, though it can be ambiguously so - unusually, he uses no key signatures at all to anchor the music but lets it flow organically. Much of Dodgson's vocal writing is narrative with one note to each word, the more lyrical outpourings reserved for phrases that contain words carrying the greatest emotional weight. Yet each role is blessed with music that subtly fleshes out the character."

Stephen Dodgson (1924-2013) was a prolific British composer who had over 250 works to his name ranging from songs and solo instrumental pieces to large-scale orchestral works and operas. Stephen loved literature and would often use poetry as the inspiration for his music. In a thesis about The Guitar works of Stephen Dodgson, John Mackenzie wrote that "everything arises from the words [...] the music clothes the words according to their place on a graph of emotional tension". When commissioned in the late 1970s to write an opera he chose to tell the real-life story of Suffolk heroine, criminal and chronicler Margaret Catchpole, inspired by his wife's early edition copy of Richard Cobbold's The History of Margaret Catchpole.

Written by well-known East Anglian writer and local historian Ronald Fletcher (1921-1992), the libretto is inspired by Cobbold's best-selling novel. It tells the embellished story of Margaret Catchpole, who was employed by Cobbold's mother as an under-nurse and cook in 1793. The opera follows Margaret, who has fallen for sailor and smuggler William Laud and subsequently steals a horse from the Cobbold family to ride to him in London. Despite pleas from Mrs Cobbold attesting to her excellent character in court, Margaret is convicted for what was then a capital crime. She manages to escape from Ipswich jail before being re-captured and transported to the penal colony in Australia.

Future plans from the Stephen Dodgson Charitable Trust include a performance (1 February 2021, St Gabriel's Pimlico) and recording of solo voice songs by Dodgson with Ailish Tynan, James Gilchrist, Roderick Williams, Chris Glynn and Mark Eden in addition to performances of Dodgson's chamber opera Cadilly and a solo guitar recital by Michael Butten at the Barnes Music Festival (12 and 18 March respectively).

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