OP0630. THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS (Vaughan Williams), recorded 1997, w. Richard Hickox Cond. Royal Opera House Ensemble; Gerald Finley, Peter Coleman-Wright, Jeremy White, Adrian Thompson, Anne-Marie Owens, Christopher Keyte, Donaldson Bell, Francis Egerton, Gidon Saks, Jonathan Fisher, etc. (Austria ) 2-Chandos 9625, Slipcase Edition w. Elaborate 134pp. Libretto-Brochure. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 095115962527
“It took Vaughan Williams more than 30 years to realise his ambition of composing a stage work based upon THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, John Bunyan's epic allegory, and it has been twice as long since the result was part of the repertory of a major British opera company. Though there have been concert performances and semi-stagings in the interim, most recently one conducted by the late Richard Hickox at Sadler's Wells in 2008, ENO's production, directed by Yoshi Oida, is the first fully staged professional one in London since Covent Garden hosted the premiere in 1951 and revived it the following year.
It has become an article of faith for the English-music lobby that THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS had to be seen again as Vaughan Williams intended; though he carefully called it a ‘morality’ and not an opera, he always insisted it belonged in the theatre. But Oida's staging raises more questions than it answers about the work's dramatic viability. The story of the Pilgrim's journey to the Celestial City is presented as a series of tableaux in which none of the characters emerges identifiably in three dimensions; even the Pilgrim is more significant for what he represents than for who he is. A two-and-a-half-hour opera whose action is symbolic and whose purpose is loftily didactic, in which the dramatic pulse beats rather slowly and sometimes vanishes altogether, can be tough going at times.
It is the magnificence of so much of that music, with its web of allusions, direct and indirect, to so much of Vaughan Williams' output, that is the saving grace here; the orchestra and chorus make it seem sumptuous.”
-Andrew Clements,THE GUARDIAN, 6 Nov., 2012