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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

The Wreckers, by Ethel Smyth

Glyndebourne / Lewes / Music

When it came to cutting off her nose to spite her face, Ethel Smyth, the composer, suffragist, and daughter of a major general in the Royal Artillery, took second place to no one. Her grim magnum opus The Wreckers earned 16 curtain calls at its premiere in Leipzig in 1906. Outraged by the conductor’s cuts, she snuck into the opera house, absconded with the orchestra parts, rendering further performances in Leipzig impossible, and hightailed off to Prague, where subsequent “underrehearsed” accounts of the score proved “a disaster.” Despite the interest of conductors including Gustav Mahler, who never conducted The Wreckers, and Sir Thomas Beecham, who did, The Wreckers never broke through. Seeking to give Smyth her belated due, Glyndebourne opens its current season with a scrupulously researched and reconstructed new edition, in the hitherto unheard original French. The action takes place on the coast of Cornwall, among Pharisaic villagers who lure ships in distress to their ruin on the rocks. A preacher’s wife’s adultery figures in the mix, as well. The atmosphere is, as you’d hope, oceanic.

Glyndebourne New Rd, Lewes BN8 5UU, UK
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