Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

January 29, 2006


Filed under: Audio Clips,Downloads,Music,Music Theatre,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 9:46 pm

Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor

This found me by way of Thisbeciel and Biedroneczka. This is yet another musical. Most of the tracks can be downloaded from Mr.Taylor's website, but there is also a CD which I think includes another 15 songs. I am hoping to coax someone into writing a review for Bronteana. For now, I have some initial reactions to register.

Here is a brief intro to the work:

Taylor's musical was the first stage adaptation of the story to be given the approval of the Brontë Society. The concept album was released by Silva Screen records in 1992, and opera star Lesley Garrett also used two of the songs for one of her best-selling solo albums.A 1994 amateur performance in the Netherlands was very successful and generated discussions for possible other productions. It has been running in repertoire in Poland since 1996 and Rumania since 1997. It debuted in Australia in 1998.

The show requires a minimum cast of about 15, but can be expanded to include a chorus of 20 or more. Orchestrations are available for a pit orchestra of 12.

This is the second music theatre adaptation of Wuthering Heights that I have come in contact with. I thought, and still do think, that the novel has a lot of potential for both opera and music theatre. Both of these work best when the emotions stretch beyond the imaginative levels of experience to the mythic. This is why characters in music theatre break into song. But the first version of Wuthering Heights that I heard so failed to reflect the mythic level of WH that it left the whole thing as something of a farce. Heathcliff was far too vulnerable and …well, nice. The music was melodious but lacked depth. I should return to it, because I have only heard some very small selections but these impressions have stuck over repetitions.This production from 1990 is a different story. I am quite impressed with the sensitivity of the score in particular. On the first listen, I was troubled by some of the lyrics but even then I realised that I was simply biased against the very idea of Heathcliff singing. When I got passed that, on a second and third listen, I heard the Arabic rhythms of his theme. I came to think that IF Heathcliff were to sing, he would sing like this. The exclaimations of 'Cathy!' that troubled me before now seem to rumble in the underscore and force their way through into the melody.

Besides this, the songs are beautiful in their own right. In the Prelude there is beauty and a sadness lurking behind it. I get the impression of beginning a celebration and a tragedy. I think this is fitting.

Two of the songs I've gone over are: Cathy! and I See a Change in You.

In addition to Wuthering Heights, Mr Taylor has adapted several other works of literature to music theatre- with equal sensitivity! He has adapted Pride and Prejudice, which captures the period so nicely in its score. The lyrics also are quite good but there's something… off. I think it is his weakest adaptation of those I have listened to so far. He has also adapted Much Ado About Nothing, which I have to admit is delightful. Again, he has managed to encorporate the scales and rhythms popular in the Renaissance into this work. I will take the liberty of recomending Benedick's song on hearing of Beatrice's passion: Madness, performed by Paul McGann as Benedick.

The work has also been the subject of discussion in the journal formerly known as 'Bronte Society Transactions' but now known as 'Bronte Studies.' Mark Seaward, editor of B.S.T. said of the work: "Bernard J. Taylor’s work marks the first time that the true spirit and drama of Emily Brontë’s masterpiece has been captured in a musical." Taken from this page, also on Mr.Taylor's site.

Critics on Wuthering Heights by Bernard Taylor:

"Bernard J. Taylor's big, sweepingly romantic score sustains a feeling of dark passion entirely appropriate for an adaptation of Emily Bronte's novel concerning the ill-fated love between Cathy and Heathcliff." – Show Music Magazine, USA, Summer, 1992.

"This is what stage music should be – passionate, powerful, melodic . . . If you buy only one album this year, make it this one – Mike Gibb, Masquerade Magazine.

"Every number, whether vocal or instrumental, packs the kind of emotional punch that musical performers and audiences cry out for." – Sarah Hopkins, Beneath the Mask, Summer 1994 issue.
"Something to shiver about!" – House & Garden (British edition), March 1992.

September 27, 2005


Filed under: Music,Music Theatre,Radio,Wuthering Heights — by bronteana @ 8:43 am

Wierd Circle Wuthering Heights, and a Musical

As promised, here is my discussion of Wuthering Heights produced by 'Wierd Circle'. It was quite a few notched better and more mature than their version of Jane Eyre. I know that compressing most books, and great books down to a half-hour radio program is nearly impossible but this one shows that with careful editing it doesn't have to be disasterous. It still isn't good, but it's good enough–I suppose. The story is compressed mainly by cutting out the entire revenge plot from beginning to end, except for Hindley treating Heathcliff poorly (but there's no mention of anything other than ostracism going on). Heathcliff cries a little, thinking of getting revenge but this revenge never happens. It seems more like an immature thought which passes after he sobers up. He does return to the Heights but all that we learn of that is that Hindley invited him. He still marries Isabella 'for spite' but all that we know about the marriage is that Isabella 'isn't happy'. All of the past and present action takes place through the device of Cathy's diary and the explication of Nelly at the end. Lockwood remains at Wuthering Heights until he has heard the whole story. When he has told Heathcliff about Cathy's ghost, Heathcliff rushes into the snow to 'bring her back' and they find him frozen on her grave the next morning. I suppose what really keeps this version from the brink of the kind of absurdity of their version of Jane Eyre is the dialogue. There is only one line, said by Cathy, which seems silly and this is only in its delivery.

I don't remember mentioning this before, but a few months ago I also was introduced to the Wuthering Heights musical. Clips from the CD can be found here: My general impression was that it didn't work. I haven't heard the music for a while now, but while I liked the idea of an operatic attempt I don't feel that this one really did the job at all.

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