Yardbird at Hackney Empire, London
This joint production between Hackney Empire and the English National Opera, presents the European premiere of Charlie Parker’s Yardbird composed by the saxophonist, Daniel Schnyder. It was an extraordinary evening of jazz infused Bebopera, moving at a pulsating pace.
The story is about the saxophonist Charlie Parker, who has just died in the room of a married Baroness. There is a media storm, but Parker’s ghost appears in a fantastical version of the infamous New York jazz club Birdland and he decides to compose a last-minute musical piece, before the news of his death breaks. The whole story is about deferred dreams and redemption with a Libretto from the award winning African American poet, Bridgette A. Wimberly.
The opera deals with his life – not really in depth – but with particular reference to his drug addiction. He was born in 1920 and died too early in 1955 having teamed up with Dizzy Gillespie who between them developed a new jazz initiative called Bebop. He was married three times with a number of children but eventually after his journey to California, Parker’s crippling drug addiction takes its toll and he is lost forever.
The director Ron Daniels gives us a simple straight forward uncomplicated set and the cast gives their all to the performance particularly his mother Addie Parker sung by a wonderful Angela Brown. His three wives Chan, Doris and Rebecca Parker are beautifully sung by Rachel Sterrenberg, Elena Perroni and Crystal Williams. Will Liverman was a concerned Dizzy Gillespie. Charlie Parker was sung by the great American tenor Lawrence Brownlee who started slowly but his high clear voice gave us a very powerful rendition of the score. The English National Opera orchestra was well conducted by Clark Rundell.
An interesting evening and an interesting story about one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. There was probably more to be said about Charlie Parker but that will be for another time.
With kind regards,
Friday, 9 June 2017