Dolf Mulder, Vital, no 515, 3 mars 2006

This cd introduces the newest work of canadian composer Tim Brady, played by his ensemble Bradyworks and baritone Michael Donovan. It is a one-act chamber opera written for voice, electric guitar, piano, percussion, saxophones, string quartet and tape. The work is inspired on the life and work of Norman Bethune (1890-1939) who was a talented surgeon and medical inventor who left his comfortable life in Montréal to fight with the Republican International Brigade in Spain in 1936, and finally to join the Chinese Army in early 1938. For this composition Brady used writings of Bethune that are sung by baritone Donovan. The opera has three parts, each one representing a phase of the life of Bethune: Montréal, Madrid and Chin Ch’a Chi. Evidently the texts play a central role in this work and because of that the voice of Donovan also. The composition and the instrumentation fulfill a serving role in evoking Bethune’s life through the texts. Brady makes good use of the different instruments from the ensemble. It’s a very colorful work and very well arranged and performed. And the composition is a successful dramatization of the story. Track eight for instance is almost rock-music reminding of the work of Louis Andriessen. Through tape Brady introduces sound-material that evokes the different geographical locations. For my ears this is most apparent in the part that tells of Bethune’s chinese adventures. I needed repeated listening before this opera began to talk to me. But in the end this thoroughly composed opera revealed its beauty for my ears.

… this thoroughly composed opera revealed its beauty for my ears.