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News - New Cantata by Joby Talbot premieres at the Barbican

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

On April 11, to celebrate the bi-centenary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s birth, Britten Sinfonia and Independent Opera join forces to present the first public performance of a new cantata by Joby Talbot, A Sheen of Dew on Flowers at London’s Barbican Centre. For this major new commission from Independent Opera, Talbot sets rare and sensual poetry from across several different millennia. A radiant and lyric score, inspired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s devoted partnership, brings to life the story of one of the greatest marriages in history whilst reflecting on the tender themes of love and loss. There will be a pre-concert talk with Joby Talbot, Natalie Murray and the Collections Curator for the Historic Royal Palaces, Matthew Storey at 6:15 pm.


Barbican Centre | 11 APRIL, 7:30 pm

Joby Talbot (b 1971): A Sheen of Dew on Flowers (2019) first public performance
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Symphony No 3 ‘Scottish’ (1829-1842)

Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano
Tobias Greenhalgh, baritone
Natalie Murray Beale, conductor
Britten Sinfonia
Independent Opera

Book Tickets to A Sheen of Dew on Flowers at the Barbican



More about the cantata
A note by Joby Talbot

A Sheen of Dew on Flowers was commissioned in celebration of the public unveiling, at the Victoria & Albert Museum, of one powerfully symbolic object in particular. Queen Victoria’s coronet was gifted to her by Prince Albert who included, significantly, details from his own coat of arms in its design. Victoria wore it while sitting for Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s famous portrait of 1842, an image of the young queen that became iconic, hanging on civic walls across the length and breadth of the burgeoning empire. She wore it again in 1866, when, reluctantly persuaded out of deep mourning for the state opening of parliament, she placed it atop her widow’s cap in poignant homage to her beloved husband. Here is an inanimate object that encapsulates the story of a tempestuous, intense and ultimately tragic love affair. In turn emblem, icon, talisman and relic, it is imbued with significance and meaning, holding within itself echoes of profound emotion and experience, symbolising the sweep of history and the lives of the people whose paths it crossed.




And, of course, Victoria and Albert’s is not the only story the coronet has to tell. Each precious stone, every one of the two thousand diamonds and eleven huge glowing sapphires that make up this extraordinary piece of jewellery has its own provenance, stretching back hundreds, maybe thousands of years. The gems were taken from the royal collection & repurposed for the occasion by the ever-industrious Albert. Prised from their previous settings and recut by Albert’s craftsmen, we now have no way of knowing exactly where they came from, who their original owners were, through whose hands they passed on their journey from the mines of India, Afghanistan, South Africa or Brazil, to the London workshop of Joseph Kitching Esq., but we can be sure that objects of such value held great significance and all kinds of meanings for the many people who interacted with them.

In choosing to set texts that span the ages and continents I am attempting to mirror the multitude of stories encapsulated both in the coronet itself, and in the wider collection of the great museum in which this important piece now resides. The way in which I have ordered the poems, and the choice to set them for two solo voices – a mezzo-soprano and a baritone – is intended to suggest the coming together of a man and a woman, the flowering of their love for one another, the tragedy of bereavement, and a long twilight of extended mourning.

Read full Programme note

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