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BALADA: Hangman, Hangman / The Town of Greed



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Leonardo Balada (born 1933)

Hangman, Hangman! • The Town of Greed (Two "cartoon" Tragic-comic chamber opera)

Born in Barcelona on 22nd September, 1933, Leonardo Balada graduated there at the Conservatorio del Liceu and in 1960 at the Juilliard School in New York, studying composition with Vincent Persichetti and Aaron Copland, and conducting with Igor Markevitch. Since 1970 he has taught at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he is University Professor of Composition. Some of his best known works were written in a dramatic avant-garde style in the 1960s, including Guernica, María Sabina and Steel Symphony. He is credited with pioneering a blending of ethnic music with avant-garde techniques later, notably in his Sinfonía en Negro-Homage to Martin Luther King of 1968, and Homage to Casals and Sarasate in 1975. Balada’s works are performed by the world’s leading orchestras, under conductors of the highest distinction. He has been commissioned by many outstanding organizations in the United States and Europe, and has composed works for artists like Alicia de Larrocha, the American Brass Quintet, Andrés Segovia, Narciso Yepes, Lucero Tena, and Angel Romero, and has collaborated with artists and writers like Salvador Dalí and the Nobel Prize winner Camilo Jose Cela. Many of his compositions have been recorded by leading record companies, and his compositions, in addition to chamber and symphonic compositions, include cantatas, chamber and full length operas. Leonardo Balada has received several international composition awards.

 

Composer’s Note

From my point of view as a composer, the important elements in an opera are the identification by the orchestra of each dramatic moment and the lyricism of the vocal soloists. Given the importance of the latter, it would not have been appropriate for me to compose operas during my avant-garde period, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, when I did not consider melody as part of my style. Instead my interest in musical drama expressed itself in the form of cantatas, where instead of singers there were narrators and the choruses would sing texturally not lyrically. During that period, I composed María Sabina (1969), with a text by the Nobel Prize laureate Camilo José Cela, Las Moradas (1970), based on the book by Saint Teresa of Avila, and No-res (1974), a protest against death, with a text by Jean Paris.

In 1975, while feeling the need for a new direction in my music, I incorporated melody into my language, creating a symbiosis between the far-out techniques of the avant-garde and traditional lines and harmonies, causing disapproval from some quarters in carrying out what nowadays is a very common practice. At that point with the addition of lyrical melodies to my palette, composing operas made sense to me. The cantata Torquemada (1980) was a prelude to Hangman, Hangman! (1982), my first opera. In 1984 Zapata followed, full of Mexican ideas and colours. In 1987 came Christopher Columbus, first performed in 1989 at the Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona with José Carreras and Montserrat Caballé. In 1996 I finished a sequel to that opera, The Death of Columbus. Finally came The Town of Greed, completed in 1997. These are all operas in which abrasive contemporary orchestral sonorities co-exist with highly melodic vocal lines.

Leonardo Balada

HANGMAN, HANGMAN! (1982)

Music & libretto by Leonardo Balada

Publisher: G. Schirmer, New York

Synopsis

Hangman, Hangman! is freely adapted from an American cowboy folk-song. Johnny, its hero, is a dreamer who has been apprehended for stealing a horse, and is about to be hanged. "A rope round his neck…That’s what he’ll get…" says the Sheriff. To soften the charges Johnny assures him that "The horse was weak. I meant no harm… His eyes were crossed, his back was broke…" During the first half of the work, the Hangman is preparing for the execution of Johnny. When Johnny is brought to the gallows, he calls for his mother to pay his ransom. Instead, the Mother testifies that even before he was born, Johnny was mischievous and she asked for his punishment. "When growing in my belly, a restless grub he was. He kicked my guts so fiercely…only six months he stayed in my womb, but like a dozen it felt," the Mother sings. Though he was surprised by his mother’s testimony, he pleads that his father soon will arrive with the ransom; that is, the price of the horse. In a short aria, the dreamer Johnny explains he took the horse for all sorts of other-worldly poetic reasons, "I took the horse to ride the skies. I took the horse to ride the seas, to ride and fly and dream…"

The Father is heard from an unknown faraway place, and expresses his regret for not being by his son’s side, but says that his mule broke down. "Sorry, sonny, Johnny. I was comin’ to see you hang." He responds to Johnny’s plea, and continues "…hanging ain’t bad, and once you are gaily swinging you’ll have a sweet peaceful feeling that you won’t regret." Johnny, stunned by his father’s excuse, surrenders to despair and prepares to die. He sees his sweetheart, a girl with a tarnished reputation, running to reach the scaffold before the Hangman completes his task. "Got no silver, got no gold. Tried to earn it selling love to all. But only pennies and a song I can give you for my Johnny," says the Sweetheart, and an aria follows; in trying to redeem Johnny, she asks forgiveness in the name of love. The Townspeople, the Sheriff and the Hangman, think that such a request is "nonsense", and they proceed with the hanging. When all seems lost, a sudden and improbable ending occurs. A deus ex machina, an Irishman of good looks and fortune, who has bought the whole region for development, appears: "Her song touched me heart…of all of you the only one with any brains is Johnny. I will pay for his ransom; Johnny will be my personal deputy!". Everyone now wants to be his friend; he is a hero. Money seduces everyone, including the dreamer, Johnny, who yields to the temptations of wealth and greed, while expressing cynicism and disgust for the town’s greed, which caused the change in morality. At the end, all sing "We’ll cheat them all. We’ll run the world and make money, silver and gold".

Hangman, Hangman! was commissioned by the Barcelona Music Festival and was presented by the Opera de Cambra de Catalunya in 1982 conducted by the composer and directed by J. Ma. Espada. The American première was presented by the Carnegie Mellon Music and Drama departments in 1983, conducted by Werner Torkanowsky and directed by Akram Midani. The work is dedicated to the composer’s wife, Joan Balada.

 

THE TOWN OF GREED(1997)

Libretto and music by Leonardo Balada.

Story by Akram Midani and Leonardo Balada.

Publisher: Beteca Music

Synopsis

The Town of Greed, in two parts, is a sequel to Hangman, Hangman! and presents the same principal characters but twenty years later. All happens in an extremely grotesque way, and the story is a strong criticism of society. As in a cartoon, the characters and issues are presented in an irreverent manner, direct and with bullet-like sharpness and directness.

In Part I Johnny is now an influential businessman, working hard in not so clean dealings around the world, all for the good life of his family and his town. Whi
Facts
Item number 8557090
Barcode 747313209026
Release date 01/09/2002
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists McKay, Anthony
Raymaley, Craig
Sederburg, Elizabeth
Longmire, James
Kraevsky, Natalya
Jacobs, Patrick
Fire, Robert
Neely, Stephen
Composers Balada, Leonardo
Conductors Pearce, Colman
Orchestras Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble
Disc: 1
The Town of Greed
1 Prologue
2 Introduction
3 Scene 1: The Sheriff and the Hangman enter
4 Scene 1: "Wait! Gimme a break..."
5 Scene 2: Sheriff and Hangman announce entrance of
6 Scene 2: Duet - "Have you brought me silver?"
7 Scene 2: "Let's get him..."
8 Scene 3: "Hangman, slack your rope..."
9 Scene 3: Sheriff, Hangman and Townspeople "Let's c
10 Scene 3: "Sorry sonny Johnny..."
11 Scene 4: Instrumental section
12 Scene 4: "Hangman, slack your rope..."
13 Scene 4: "Wait! I'm his sweetheart..."
14 Scene 4: "No waiting..."
15 Scene 4: "I don't ask your forgiveness..."
16 Finale: "Nonsense..."
17 Finale: "Viva Johnny!!"
18 Finale: "What the heck!..."
19 Part I: Prelude
20 Part I Scene I: "Petting my cigar..."
21 Part I: Deals - "Hi Mr. Johnny"
22 Part I: Lento: "In my dreams I rode high..."
23 Part I: A deal - "I'm Tokopoko"
24 Part I: "I am your sweetheart..."
25 Part I: "Sorry sweetheart..."
26 Part I: Johnny, back in his office with Mother, Fa
27 Part II: "There is trouble in town..."
28 Part II: "Let's hang him at once..."
29 Part II: "Quiet everyone..."
30 Part II: Lento molto - Finale love duet: "I love y
31 Part II: Piu Mosso: "Pull him..."
32 Part II: Epilogue
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