The Button Moulder 1990
A fantasy opera after Ibsen's Peer Gynt
For community performance
Commissioned by the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in association with Prince William School, Oundle, with funds made available by Coutts Career Consultants
duration approx 1 hr 20 min [Act One - 40', Act Two - 40']
"...twists and turns of folk music, evocative yet never quite definable; there is the pounding pulse of rock, the melodic parallels and earthy rhythms of the Middle Ages..."
Peer Gynt, with its mixture of reality and fantasy, is a work young people can appreciate on many different levels. It is notoriously hard to put on the stage ("Do it on the radio" says the heroine in Educating Rita) and Ibsen recognized the need for music to play an important role in underlining its mythical atmosphere. Here much of the play has been followed quite closely, although it has been cut to provide a simple dramatic shape and there has been some updating. The music, intended as an odyssey in itself, draws on a wide variety of styles ranging from medieval music to that of the present day, and from different parts of the world, and some of it originated from projects leading to the production.
The Button Moulder comes to collect old Peer Gynt's soul: playing for time, Peer reviews his life.We see him as a brazen youngster absconding with a young girl on her wedding day. He is almost torn to pieces by Trolls in the Hall of the Mountain King. He bids farewell to his dying mother and to Solveig, the girl who's devoted to him, and goes off to conquer the world.
We see him as a wealthy middle-aged business man who exploits any situation to his advantage and narrowly escapes a plot against him.
His ambitions to be Emperor lead him to the Madhouse where he presides over a scene of death and destruction which lays bare his soul.
Back home, Solveig, now a blind old lady, still waits for him: and so does the Button Moulder....
"Lambert has drawn on a variety of musical styles... there are twists and turns of folk music, evocative yet never quite definable; there is the pounding pulse of rock, the melodic parallels and earthy rhythms of the Middle Ages. There is a full battery of percussion and electronic keyboards... to say that the project is a far-reaching community effort is to give little idea of the flair and professionalism with which the cast carry off this fully-fledged opera... there are ritual dances, too, nearly always allied to the production's most memorable set pieces... well worth the booking."
"Ibsen's everyman lends itself naturally to the persona of the boastful self-centered teenager. But Lambert's opera... turned out to be far from the narrow contemporary morality it so easily could have become... the opera's strength lay in the toughness and economy with which it used its disparate resources... the sung dialogue was lithe and muscular, floating free of accompaniments as rich and varied as Ibsen's verse. Duets and ensembles were uncompromisingly written, and there was as much work for a recorder beginner as for a violin virtuoso. [Dances] contributed to the work's own powerful pacing...the evening's undoubted coup de théåtre is the madhouse scene... a manic impressario/dictator puts his cast of drop-outs, intellectuals and artists through a series of turns as chilling in their movement as in their music."
The Press and Bulletin, Binghamton, USA
... a pretty impressive accomplishment...the entire cast seemed to pulsate...the asylum which had all the trappings of a lethal TV game show let students deal with topics that have some depth...opens up the world of opera to students. ..what was most enjoyable was watching young people take so enthusiastically to an admittedly difficult art form