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Home arrow Older News Archive arrow Roger Waters talks about "Ca Ira"
Roger Waters talks about "Ca Ira" Print E-mail
Written by Matt   
Sunday, 08 February 2004

Yesterday's Independent on Sunday newspaper (UK, February 8th 2004), included a look at how some "historic British rock names have decided that classical sounds might be more in keeping with their advanced age", and looks at two examples - Manfred Mann, who is issuing a collection of previously unreleased hymns by Elgar, and Roger Waters, who as we know has written an entire opera about the French Revolution called "Ca Ira", hopefully being released this summer.

Waters, now 58, said he is braced for a hostile reaction from the classical world. "I think they'll demand my head. I think I'll be attacked from all quarters and given a savaging. I'll be accused of being pretentious, banal and inept as well as being a charlatan — and too old. Although I might be surprised — there's some great tunes in there, so people might accept it.

He began working on the opera, called Ça Ira, in 1989 after an old friend, Etienne Roda-Gil, wrote the libretto. "It was a loose poetic and polemic history of the French Revolution — he wrote the words and his wife Natalie illustrated the text. It was 50 pages and was an extraordinary document.

"He said he wanted to borrow some tunes. I spent 30 days coming up with two and a half hours of demos for a potential orchestral piece."

The tapes were taken to France where they were heard by, among others, President Francois Mitterrand. "He listened to the demo and loved it," said Waters. They did not have time to finish the work for the French bicentennial celebrations that year, and a proposal to stage it in a Paris park was abandoned when Natalie died of leukaemia.

But Waters returned to the piece years later and set about orchestrating his sketches. A test recording impressed the Sony Classics label. "They were badgering me to translate it into English. I was kicking and screaming to keep it in French but we have now done it in English and French." The work, lasting 110 minutes, has now been recorded with soloists including Bryn Terfel, the star bass-baritone.

"Contemporary classical music has to some extent disappeared up its own arse — it's become so mathematical and clever, cerebral rather than emotional. It interests some but it goes over the heads of most of the population," Waters said. He expects the recording to be released later this year and talks are under way to perform the opera around Europe.

Roger Lewis, managing director of Classic FM, said he would be keen to hear the results: "We have been very supportive of musicians who have experimented with classical structures and forms. I think it's exciting for the genre. For many listeners it gives a modern relevance to our sector. Traditional critics are sceptical about such initiatives but the public are far more relaxed — for them, music is music."

The full article can be seen on the Independent website.

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