'A composer of masterful technique. From the tango of the overture to the tango of the close, one is on the edge of one's seat trying to catch as much as possible of the prolific, fast-altering, vividly etched and instrumentally outrageous detail of a score that is boiling with life.' Th Sunday Times

Instrumentation

Duchess (S)/Hotel Manager (B)/Electrician (T)/Maid (S) 3 cl(I in Bb=bcl+ssax+bsax.II in A=bcl+asax+bsax.III in A=bcl+cbcl+swanee whistle) – hn.tpt.trbn – perc(1): 2 t.bells/SD/flat BD/small bongo/2 timb/rototom/cyms/susp.cym/miniature 8-inch susp.cym/siz.cym/hi-hat/wdbl/3 tpl.bl (medium to small)/3 susp.brake drum/tamb/tgl/tam-t/vibraslap/washboard/cabaça/whip/lion's roar/popgun/rattle/flexatone/guiro/scrap metal, crockery or glass/large fishing reel/electric bell/swanee whistle – harp(=electric bell+fishing reel) – button accordion(=electric bell+fishing reel) – pno(=fishing reel) – 2 vln.vla.vlc.db(=fishing reel)

Availability

Full score 0571519954, vocal score 0571517307 and libretto 0571516114 on sale, parts for hire

Reviews

‘The music of Powder Her Face manages to be eclectic in a way that never sounds like pastiche and always sounds like Adès. Set into the spiky texture of much of the score, its occasional lilting snippets of 1930s-style popular songs could, in other hands, be the stuff of simple-minded parody. But Mr. Adès always brings in an unexpected note, a destabilizing rhythm, a mood that won’t stay put. It is a style in which one thing flows endlessly, effortlessly into the next, just as the characters constantly change their costumes and the staccato brass tweets at the end of the overture lead seamlessly into the Maid’s laughter in the opening scene.’
The New York Times (Zachary Woolfe), 8 February 2013
 
‘In this fanciful tale of the Duchess of Argyll – a real-life 1950s British beauty whose husband divorced her on 88 counts of adultery – the notorious lady makes a pass at a room-service waiter. As her aria subsides to a strangled murmur, 25 nude male extras crowd into the room like gym-toned spirits of one-night stands past… In most operas, such lurid staging would seem over the top. But here it’s a perfect fit with the nerve-jangling score, which sounds like Stravinsky, Ravel and Alban Berg run through a Cuisinart.’
New York Post (James Jorden), 18 February 2013
 
‘Opera Philadelphia pulled off its greatest piece of work perhaps in several seasons, with a gorgeously sung and smartly crafted production of Powder Her Face… With only 17 musicians in the pit, Adès has enough confidence in his listener to be constantly turning on a dime… Pluralism reigns. Composers have argued as much for decades, but surely no one has done so as emphatically, and so beautifully within the framework of single pieces, as Adès. Powder Her Face was premiered 18 years ago, and yet its cascading pastiche now seems only more a product of our time.’
Philadelphia Inquirer (Peter Dobrin), 11 June 2013
 
‘Was it really as far back as 1995 that Thomas Adès premiered Powder Her Face? It hardly seems so; his music and Philip Hensher’s English libretto seem fresh enough to have been written just yesterday… Opera Philadelphia has put her life back on stage for us in a production as gorgeously staged and costumed as it is sung… Powder Her Face is a reminder that even in modern times, the stuff of great dramatic tragedy still exists, and that a great composer can bring it out and illustrate it through his work. It is well worth adding to the regular modern operatic repertoire.’
Broadway World (Marakay Rogers), 12 June 2013

Powder Her Face

Scene 8 only from Powder Her Face Scene 6 only from Written on Skin

Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London, United Kingdom)

Dominic Wheeler, Martin Lloyd-Evans, students of Guildhall School of Music

Powder Her Face

Scene 8 only from Powder Her Face Scene 6 only from Written on Skin

Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London, United Kingdom)

Dominic Wheeler, Martin Lloyd-Evans, students of Guildhall School of Music

Powder Her Face

Scene 8 only from Powder Her Face Scene 6 only from Written on Skin

Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London, United Kingdom)

Dominic Wheeler, Martin Lloyd-Evans, students of Guildhall School of Music

Powder Her Face

Scene 8 only from Powder Her Face Scene 6 only from Written on Skin

Milton Court, Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London, United Kingdom)

Dominic Wheeler, Martin Lloyd-Evans, students of Guildhall School of Music

Powder Her Face

Alternative Stage, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (Kallithea, Greece)

Greek National Opera, Ergon Ensemble, Nicolas Vasiliou, dir. Alexandros Efklidis, Justine Viani, Yianni Yannissis

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