Osborne, Nigel (opera)
- Gerald Larner
(b Manchester, June 23, 1948). English composer . He studied with Leighton and Wellesz at Oxford, where he was musical director of several theatre companies. Although he was awarded the Radio Suisse Romande opera prize for his dramatic cantata Seven Words (1969–71), he did not complete a work for the stage until 1985. Hell’s Angels (1986), the first work commissioned by Opera Factory, received much publicity and, because of the sensational nature of its subject matter, no little notoriety. Freeman’s libretto interleaves an adaptation of Oskar Panizza’s play Das Liebeskonzil – a fanciful account of divine retribution by syphilis inflicted on the court of the Borgia Pope Alexander VI in 1494 – with his own allegory of punishment by AIDS in a parallel situation of corruption today. The vocal line is basically a free arioso which occasionally proliferates into a short ensemble and only rarely develops into a shape as lyrical as that uttered by the first AIDS victim at the end of the work. More often it reverts to plain speech or to a partially notated parlando. An atmospheric background is provided by taped electronic sounds in the introduction and interludes, and by colouristic orchestral scoring, a prominent feature of which (in a central scene of papal debauchery) is a prolonged and unsophisticated percussion passage....