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At home, Charles’s wife Antonia is visited by her doctor, Simon, a long-standing friend. She is ill and needs further urgent tests, but she is terrified of another general anaesthetic. There is a deep unspoken attraction between them. Unnoticed, Maria, the Frieths’ Polish housekeeper, watches the end of their conversation. Left alone, she reveals her passionate idolisation of Charles and her contempt for Antonia and Simon.
Robin enters. He resents working for Charles and tries ordering some coffee from Maria, but she’s having none of it. She is proud and sings about her homeland with a melody that is a recurring theme in the opera but is here treated like a folk-song.
Charles arrives home in a state of excitement, accompanied by Joan. He has written a 32-bar cadenza for horn to be inserted into his new work, Demonic Aubade, due to be rehearsed tomorrow. Robin will have to stay up all night writing out the parts. Charles flatters Maria, who can barely contain her excitement, and asks her to bring supper for two to his studio. She is all too willing to serve the great man. Charles then asks for a word with her in private. He enquires how Antonia is and becomes disturbed when Maria reveals that Simon has visited the house. She finally declares that the Doctor loves Antonia and leaves Charles alone to reflect on his situation. Jealous but sickened, too, by his own behaviour, Charles decides to change his ways and calls Maria back to witness his promise that Joan will be his last fling. Unfortunately, Maria believes he is making a promise to her. She is almost delirious with delight.
Charles’s Studio. Charles can’t understand why he isn’t able to make love and persuades Joan to try again. Maria bursts in with supper, separating the lovers and tidying the bed around them. She is followed by Robin, who has found a problem with the music he’s been asked to copy, and then by Antonia, with a bag packed for hospital, and closely followed by Simon. Everyone is experiencing confusion and pain—mixed with a degree of self-righteousness.
The Hospital. As Antonia comes round from the operation she remembers the beginnings of her love for Charles. He sits in the shadows listening. He loves her and is full of remorse, and when he tries to convince her of this she reveals how hurt she has been. Charles becomes agitated and accidentally knocks over a monitor, just as the Doctor and nurse arrive. Simon and Charles finally confront each other. As Simon asserts his authority, Charles states his claim over his wife and storms out.
Charles’s studio. Maria and Robin are once again arguing about Charles. Maria declares he is a god amongst men. Just then Charles returns from the hospital and sees that Robin hasn’t finished writing the parts. He dispatches Robin and bemoans the frustration and anguish his faithless marriage has caused, joking that if murder was amongst her household duties he’d send Maria to the hospital! When he goes on to ask if she has ever contemplated marriage her world is turned upside down. She is convinced he is asking her to marry him and starts to imagine a time when he will be hers alone, with the past wiped clean.
The Hospital. Antonia is still weak and Simon warns the staff not to leave Charles alone with her. He too struggles with his own guilt. Antonia wakes up and seeing Simon at her bedside it seems that at long last they can share their love. Simon leaves and as Antonia drifts off to sleep Maria emerges from the shadows, wearing Charles’s coat. To a wild variation of the music of confusion, she turns off Maria’s life support and departs, leaving the coat behind.
The Rehearsal Room, next morning. Charles begins conducting his Demonic Aubade. This is the work he has aspired to all his life. It is his artistic zenith and personal credo, a mixture of vision and hubris. As it reaches its climax Simon arrives, accompanied by two police officers with the coat. Charles is cross about the interruption and can’t believe what they are saying. It just doesn’t make sense. As he is arrested for his wife’s murder he realises what must have happened. He begs Maria to reveal the truth but it is too late.
Now she finally has him all to herself.
from notes by Signum Classics © 2010
|Berkeley (M): For you|
'For you' is a new opera that brings together the music of composer and BBC Radio 3 presenter Michael Berkeley and Booker-prize winning author Ian McEwan. This gripping tale of love, lust and obsession centers on the composer and prodigious womani ...» More