A suite from the opera Maskarade
Arranged for wind octet by Tony Turrill
Click on the quaver for excerpts from each movements
Click on the following for complete virtual performances
1. The overture
often performed as a stand alone overture
2 .Dances from Act 1
Magdalone demonstrates to her son that she can dance and will join in the forbidden festivities
3. Prelude to Act 2
a short orchestral interlude before the opening quiet midnight scene in act 2
4. The love duet, Leander and Leonora
the young lovers plight their troth
5. The opening of Act 3
a brisk introduction to the lively end to the Maskarade.
6. The dance of “Venus” and “Mars”
dancers and students capture Jeronimus and ply him with drink
7. The dance of the Cockerels **
accompanies a short ballet by a group of merrymakers dressed as cockerels
Surprisingly, this opera’s overture is Nielsen’s most performed concert work both in the UK and USA. and perhaps like other overtures it was in danger of becoming the only relic of an opera much loved and performed in his homeland but internationally almost forgotten. However, in 1990 , 85 years after it was written, Opera North gave the opera its first British professional premiere. In 2005, a Covent Garden production followed and Opera North repeated their production a few seasons later. Hopefully, this will not be the last time.
Nielsen’s pre-Lenten frolic is is set in 1723 in Copenhagen’s Maskarade - the Danish Mardi Gras. It is an an implausible tale. Leander and Leonora, meet at a masquerade ball and despite the fact that they are unrecognisable being disguised in costume and wearing masks, it is love at first sight -perhaps the pheromones are at work. They swear their undying love for each other and exchange rings. The following day, Leander tells his valet Henrik of his newfound love but becomes distraught when reminded by Henrik that his parents have betrothed him to the girl next door (actually the unrecognised Leonora). Leander’s father, Jeronimus. forbids his son from attending the following day’s festivities, an instruction Leander duly ignores. The plot then becomes more complex when Leander’s mother Magdelone, a “talented dancer”, also defies her husband and in Act 2 sets off to join the fun, Appropriately disguised and masked, she fails to recognise that she is inadvertently flirting with a masked Leanord, Leonora’s father. Act 2 is dominated by Leander and Leonora declaring their undying love. In Act 3, Jeronimus joins the throng determined to find his family but is diverted and plied with drink by a group of students until at the end all take off their masks and surprisingly all is revealed to everyone’s mutual satisfaction, especially the two lovers. Nevertheless this unconvincing story provides a vehicle for Nielsen to display his music at its most melodic and entertaining - a real festival of memorable melodies from the overture through to the final chorus of “a dance for you a dance for me”.
Since Mozart’s day operas have been a plentiful source for octet arrangements and this one follows that example. For the overture, prelude and cockerels’ dance, the source has been the orchestral scores and for the rest, the vocal score . The somewhat unusual combination, a standard octet plus flute and minus a horn, was partially chosen for utility - helping to arrange participants into viable groups on Norvik Music’s annual course but including the flute with its extended range solves many problems and keeping one horn busy is much simpler than two.
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**Strictly speaking, the dance of the cockerels features in the opera at an earlier point but it would finish any performance of this suite as a rousing finale