OP0018. THE WRECKERS (Ethel Smyth), Live Performance, 31 July, 1994, Royal Albert Hall, London, w. Odaline de la Martinez Cond. BBC Phil., Huddersfield Choral Society; Peter Sidhom, Anne-Marie Owens, David Wilson-Johnson, Justin Lavender, Brian Bannatyne-Scott, Anthony Roden, Annemarie Sand, etc. (England) 2-Conifer 51250, w.Elaborate Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy! - 756055125020
“THE WRECKERS is arguably the greatest of Smyth’s operas, and certainly her most ambitious. It was her only three-act stage work and required significantly larger musical resources than any of the others. Composed in 1902–4, the opera was inspired by Smyth’s walking holiday of Cornwall and the Scilly Isles some years previously, during which she explored smugglers’ caves such as Piper’s Hole on the island of Tresco.
This brought her into contact with apocryphal tales of the locals luring ships onto rocks in order to pillage their loot, to which she added a subplot of two lovers attempting to thwart this nefarious practice by lighting warning beacons. The monumental opera that resulted was later described by the composer herself as ‘The work by which I stand or fall’. One of its highlights, often performed in its own right as a concert piece, is the evocative prelude to Act II, ‘On the Cliffs of Cornwall’.
Written with a French libretto by Smyth’s collaborator Henry Brewster as Les Naufrageurs, the opera was translated into both German (as Strandrecht) and English when attempts to secure a production in the original language proved fruitless. It was premiered at the Neues Theater, Leipzig in November 1906, prompting many curtain calls. Yet the composer, disgruntled at the extensive cuts made to the final act without her consent, withdrew her music from the orchestra pit following the opening night and, in a move she believed to be ‘unique in the annals of Operatic History’, took it to Prague to be played there instead. She was to wait three more years for the first stage performance in her home country, at His Majesty’s Theatre, London in June 1909; the six-night production was conducted by Thomas Beecham, who was to become one of Smyth’s strongest allies in the music profession, and it was attended by King Edward VII himself.”
- Christopher Wiley
"In 1984 Odaline de la Martinez became the first woman to conduct at a BBC Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1987 she was awarded the Villa Lobos medal from the Brazilian government for her championing of the music of Heitor Villa Lobos and other Brazilian composers. Her continuing commitment to showcase the music of Latin America for UK and European audiences led her in 1989 to co-direct with Eduardo Mata VIVA! - a festival of Latin-American music - at London's South Bank Centre. In 1990 she was made a fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and in 1992 she founded LORELT (Lontano Records Limited) with the intent of promoting the work of living composers and women and Latin American composers from all periods. The label has since released over 30 CDs to critical acclaim.
In the summer of 1994 Martinez conducted the BBC Proms premiere of Ethel Smyth's THE WRECKERS, later released on CD by Conifer Records. A CD recording of Smyth's orchestral music for Chandos Records followed.
After a gap of almost ten years, Martinez began composing again. First, music to a radio play commissioned by BBC Radio 4 (1998), followed by the Hansen Variations for Piano (1999) - commissioned by the Music Department of Tulane University. In 2008 she completed her second opera, IMOINDA, with a libretto by Joan Anim-Addo about slavery and the beginning of the Afro-Caribbean culture.
In the autumn of 2006 together with Lontano Ensemble she founded the London Festival of American Music aiming to introduce UK audiences to a broader spectrum of works from contemporary American and US-based composers, and it has continued to be celebrated biennially since then. Several major works have received their UK premieres there, including works by John Harbison, Marjorie Merryman, Daniel Asia, Peter Child and Roberto Sierra.
Nellie Melba and her leading tenor, John McCormack, were highly impressed with New Zealander Rosina Buckman's singing and after much persuasion from each of them she eventually returned to Britain in mid 1912. There she soon obtained work, including an engagement conducted by Thomas Beecham. An audition at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden led to supporting rôles in a special Wagner series in early 1914. This was followed by the normal summer repertoire in which she made her début on 20 April as Musetta to Melba's Mimi in Puccini's LA BOHÈME; she went on to sing in three other operas. Beecham eventually formed an opera company of his own from British singers he believed to be the finest of the day and he selected Rosina Buckman as a principal dramatic soprano. With the post-war reopening of Covent Garden in May 1919, Buckman alternated the leading rôle in LA BOHÈME with Nellie Melba. Among other operas at Covent Garden over the next 12 months she also sang MADAMA BUTTERFLY in a performance in English which was said to be a revelation to the regular subscribers.”
- Ned Ludd