Welcome To The Voice - Steve Nieve

[Updated: November 8, 2008]

Welcome To The Voice - Steve Nieve

Title:Welcome To The Voice - Steve Nieve
Medium:1CD
Label:Deutsche Grammophon
Catalogue number:-
Release date:March 2007
Tracks:
  1. Prologue [10:53] - Sting, Steve Nieve
  2. The Ghost of Carmen [6:02] - Sarah Fulgoni, Sting, Steve Nieve
  3. Grand grand freedom [7:08] - Sting, Steve Nieve, Robert Wyatt, The Steel Workers Chorus
  4. Welcome to the Voice [4:05] - Sting, Steve Nieve
  5. Ghost of Butterfly [2:47] - Nathalie Manfrino, Steve Nieve
  6. Ghost of Norma [4:37] - Amanda Roocroft, Steve Nieve
  7. To Be is Strong [3:30] - Sting, Steve Nieve
  8. Perfume Song [4:47] - Barbara Bonney, Steve Nieve
  9. Desire [2:36] - Sting, Steve Nieve
  10. Troublemaker [4:14] - Elvis Costello, Robert Wyatt, Steve Nieve, The Steel Workers Chorus
  11. Don't Touch [4:36] - Barbara Bonney, Steve Nieve
  12. Distanciation [0:46] - Steve Nieve, The Steel Workers Chorus
  13. Happiness [3:02] - Robert Wyatt, Sting, Steve Nieve
  14. Despair [6:45] - Elvis Costello, Sting, Robert Wyatt, Barbara Bonney, Amanda Roocroft, Sarah Fulgoni, Nathalie Manfrino, Steve Nieve
  15. Unlikely [4:57] - Sting, Barbara Bonney, Sarah Fulgoni, Robert Wyatt, Nathalie Manfrino, Amanda Roocroft, Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, The Steel Workers Chorus
Remarks:Music by Steve Nieve, Libretto by Muriel Teodori - featuring Barbara Bonney, Elvis Costello, Sara Fulgoni, Nathalie Manfrino, Amanda Roocroft, Sting, and Robert Wyatt.

“The true salvation is the human voice." When these words are sung by Sting on the title track of Welcome to the Voice, we are persuaded to believe in the strength of human desire. The singer - together with opera stars Barbara Bonney, Amanda Roocroft, Sara Fulgoni, and Nathalie Manfrino, as well as his pop comrades Elvis Costello and Robert Wyatt - is celebrating the voice's sensory, even extra-sensory power, in this modern opera that aims to unite the black and white precision of classical writing with the colour of chance and “happy accidents" associated with improvised music.

The creators of this “contemporary opera of unlikely encounters" are composer Steve Nieve and librettist Muriel Teodori. Nieve, a classically trained pianist-composer from London, has been a fixture in Elvis Costello's bands since 1977, is a solo musician in his own right, and has worked with artists from David Bowie to Anne Sofie von Otter, while Teodori, with whom Nieve has shared his life for over a decade, is a psychoanalyst, author, filmmaker, and playwright. It was their own “unlikely encounter" that led them to write this opera, which juxtaposes not only differing cultural and social worlds - a steelworker and an opera singer - but also a wide variety of world-renowned voices. “Everything about Welcome to the Voice has been completely unexpected", Nieve emphasizes. “First of all the collaboration between myself and Muriel, who is a French woman, a psychoanalyst, and an intellectual - everything that I'm not. The whole thing has been the most unlikely dream."

That Welcome to the Voice sustains a dreamlike quality and fascination throughout its 70 minutes, that even the music finds a unique voice of its own, is a tribute in equal measure to its authors and to its illustrious interpreters. “A new patch on the border between art music and pop is being cultivated", wrote journalist Ann Powers in The New York Times following the workshop at the Town Hall Theater, New York. “This work took their style into a more elaborate structure, doing its part to break down generic divides further." Bill Crandall in Rolling Stone On Line found that “disparate voices become united, beauty prospers over tedium, and, most importantly, the guy gets the girl. It's not a new story, but from the inspired brain of Nieve it's a sublime one."

“The story of Welcome to the Voice is extremely basic, very simple", says Muriel Teodori. It deals with the steelworker Dionysos, son of a Greek immigrant, whose passion for opera music develops into a powerful infatuation with an opera diva. The entire plot takes place on the steps of an opera house. Dionysos (Sting) is visited by the ghosts of Carmen (Sara Fulgoni), Norma (Amanda Roocroft), and Butterfly (Nathalie Manfrino); his friend (Robert Wyatt of the legendary band Soft Machine) tries to convince him of the futility of his obsession; when he finally meets the object of his adoration (Barbara Bonney) he wants to embrace her, and to kiss her, but she is frightened by his passion. The police chief (Elvis Costello) arrives to arrest him.

“Traditionally you're supposed to kill off the lover at the end of an opera," says Muriel Teodori, “but in this one, nobody dies. Dionysos tries to convince the diva that their love can overcome all differences. The final word of the opera is 'yes' and we asked everyone to sing it - the singers, the musicians, the technicians - that says it all."

The immigrant's son, named after the Greek god of “fertility and ecstasy", proclaims in the prologue: “Transcendence / there's no more sense / of transcendence now in this world / devils and gods now they are unemployed / they're only good for the museum". But Sting, who sings the lead role, emphasizes that he doesn't know a lot about opera or opera singing, and he regards this work as “trying to combine the world of popular singing, proletarian singing, with high art. Whether it succeeds or not is beside the point. It is a brave work and I'd like people to accept it for what it is."

Barbara Bonney goes further still: “There is so much we can all learn from each other", declares the American soprano. “Just this experience of listening to Sting, how he uses his voice, the freedom with which he treats the music that is on the page. I see a particular set of notes and their rhythms and I feel bound to perform it as it is written there on the page. Sting takes it as a sort of map and then he says: 'OK, I can take the left route or the right route. I choose which way I want to do it.' That for me is true interpretation, whereas what I'm doing is perhaps just 're-creating'." In praising Welcome to the Voice and its music, which the composer himself modestly describes as “simple" and “restricted to what I can play with my fingers", Bonney recognizes that “Steve writes music that does not belong to a particular genre. In fact, I think he has invented a new genre. I'm thinking of something like a Singspiel, a 'sung play'. It is sort of playing with the voice and the music in a way that I have never experienced before."

Steve Nieve says of his operatic pop songs, or pop arias, “The Unlikely Duet", “Happiness", and “Perfume Song", that “this work is representative of the century we live in, which is a century of the hybrid and the fusion. To me, the idea of this fusion of the music feels completely natural."

“This has been a beautiful and surprising adventure, collaborating with some of the singers Muriel and I love the most; playing with the amazing Brodsky Quartet; with jazz masters Marc Ribot and Ned Rothenburg and last but not least releasing this album on Deutsche Grammophon. Working together in this process has brought many surprises. The biggest surprise, perhaps, is that Muriel and I are still together after such an intense period of work!"

==================================

Artists Track-by-Track

1) Prologue:
Sting - Vocal
Steve Nieve – Piano, Mini Moog
Ned Rothenberg – Saxophones, Clarinets
Marc Ribot – Guitars
Brodsky Quartet

2) Ghost of Carmen:
Sara Fulgoni – Vocal
Sting – Vocal
Steve Nieve – Mini Moog
Brodsky Quartet

3) Grand Grand Freedom:
Robert Wyatt – Vocal
Sting – Vocal
The London Voices – Choir
Les Amis Francais – Choir
Steve Nieve – Piano, Mini Moog
Robert Wyatt – Pocket Trumpet
Ned Rothenberg – Saxophones, Clarinets
Marc Ribot – Guitars
Antoine Quessada – Cymbals
Brodsky Quartet

4) Ghost of Butterfly:
Nathalie Manfrino – Vocal
Steve Nieve – Mini Moog
Shakuhachi – Ned Rothenberg
Brodsky Quartet

5) Ghost of Norma:
Amanda Roocroft – Voice
Steve Nieve – Mini Moog
Brodsky Quartet

6) To Be is Strong:
Sting – Voice
Steve Nieve – Piano
Ned Rothenberg - Clarinets
Brodsky Quartet

7) Perfume Song:
Barbara Bonney – Voice
Sting – Voice
Steve Nieve - Piano
Brodsky Quartet

8) Desire:
Sting – Voice
Brodsky Quartet

9) Trouble Maker:
Elvis Costello – Voice
Robert Wyatt – Voice
The London Voices – Choir
Les Amis Francais – Choir
Steve Nieve - Piano
Ned Rothenberg – Bass Clarinet, Bass Flute

10) Don’t Touch Him:
Barbara Bonney – Vocal
Steve Nieve – Piano, Mini Moog
Brodsky Quartet

11) Distanciation:
Nathalie Manfrino – Voice
Sara Fulgoni - Voice
The London Voices – Choir
Les Amis Francais – Choir
Steve Nieve – Piano
Sting – Electric Bass Guitar
Robert Wyatt – Pocket Trumpet
Brodsky Quartet

12) Happiness:
Robert Wyatt – Voice
Sting – Voice
Steve Nieve – Piano
Ned Rothenberg - Clarinet
The Brodsky Quartet

13) Despair:
Elvis Costello – Voice
Sting – Voice
Robert Wyatt – Voice
Barbara Bonney – Voice
Amanda Roocroft - Voice
Nathalie Manfrino - Voice
Sara Fulgoni – Voice
Steve Nieve - Piano, Mini Moog
Robert Wyatt – Pocket Trumpet
Ned Rothenberg - Saxophones, Clarinets
Brodsky Quartet

14) Unlikely:
Sting – Voice
Barbara Bonney - Voice
Robert Wyatt – Voice
Barbara Bonney – Voice
Amanda Roocroft - Voice
Nathalie Manfrino - Voice
Sara Fulgoni – Voice
The London Voices – Choir
Les Amis Francais – Choir
Steve Nieve - Piano, Mini Moog
Ned Rothenberg - Saxophones, Clarinets
Marc Ribot – Guitars
Antoine Quessada - Cymbals
Brodsky Quartet

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