William Walton
Pamela Hunter (reciter)
Melologos Ensemble
Silver van Den Broeck (conductor)
Discover International
D1CD 920125,DDD
(total time: 61.05)

The programme for the Aldeburgh Festival performance in 1987.

Programme Note on the scenic production of Edith Sitwell's
'Façade' 'Something lies beyond the sheen . . ."

This new scenic production of “Façade” begins with the Prologue
“Something lies beyond the sheen…"

In a series of episodes set in London in 1923, Edith Sitwell recalls the influences and events that provide the background to her poetry - her façade. By taking the person of Edith Sitwell as the key to her brilliant poetry, the scenic production illuminates Façade through the associations and symbols of her story. The actress, Pamela Hunter, who conceived and devised the Prologue and the ideas behind the scenic realization of Façade is making a film of the production for BBC Television, which is being shown in September to mark Edith Sitwell's anniversary in 1987.

If we take the hint implied in the title, then 'Façade ' actually invites us to take a look behind its symbolical curtain at what lies beyond. With this scenic presentation of 'Façade', we look over the poet's shoulder, into the private world of memories and associations which Edith Sitwel l so skilfully intertwined in the web of her 'stream of consciousness' texts. At the same time, the production picks out some of the tangible events in her past, her childhood and family background and from her experience of the world in London in the early 20's and links them to the brilliant display of assonance, onomatopoeia, 'double_ entendres ' and allusions which this initially baffling poetry exhibits.

By way of an introduction and as a preparation for the intense sequence of verbal and musical virtuosity into which the Entertainment develops, this production opens with a Prologue 'Something lies beyond the sheen a compilation of Edith Sitwell's own words,
put together to form a series of episodes which introduce the listener to the enigmatic personality of this intensely introverted aristocratic poet. Through her narrative, Edith Sitwell illuminates and identifies some of the salient symbols and elements central to
the Entertainment - Façade. 'I was influenced by the outer surroundings of my childhood ', Edith Sitwell tells us and proceeds to elaborate in sometimes harrowing detail.

The music in the Prologue is from William Walton and it is particularly interesting to note the way in which the pieces he wrote for the versions of the Entertainment as it was given in 1922 and 1923, correspond so closely to the introspective and intimate mood of Edith Sitwell's texts.

A selection of these movements was recently published by the composer under the title 'Façade II ', but in this context and with the benefit of hind-sight, one may glimpse the
poet 's and the composer's reactions to their audiences' bewilderment at those first performances and so understand the direction which the development of the entertainment took, until it was formed into the sequence of 21 numbers as we now
enjoy it.

The Prologue includes a brief diatribe from Edith Sitwell on the subject of the fashionable 'flappers' and social climbers in the world of London in the 1920's and it closes on a wistful, meta_ physical note with a quotation which may even offer a clue to our better understanding of this sophisticated, symbolist artist: the constant flux between external
(= apparent) meaning and the inner (= hidden) truth - her façade .

The superficial nonchalance and evident gaiety of mood which the music of 'Façade ' so superbly sustains , seems to permanently lure the listener from hearing any of the deeper implications or meanings in the extraordinary texts .

This is where the production takes the chance to link the elements previously identified
in the Prologue with the dazzling sequence of the Entertainment. Thus characters and events are linked by simple pantomime (Charades) and hints of the 'commedia dell 'arte' to the relevant episode in 'Façade '. This sequence, already unified by the combination
of the words and music, is further enhanced by the pictures . These are not to be understood in any documentary sense, but rather as a suggested extension of the (child's) world of imagination through which we are invited to follow Edith Sitwell .

Doubtless the entire investment of a scenic dimension the production begs the question once again of what exactly is 'Façade ' ? It creators certainly had little concept at the outset of their endeavours of what it was to become, nor of the scandal and ensuing popularity it would arouse. Let it suffice for us to appreciate it within the terms set at its inception: a unique, period piece, a brilliant combination of words and music, so full of wit and tasteful artistry that it fully earns its comparison with those illustrious contemporary master-pieces - albeit quite different in mood and content - Pierrot Lunaire and The Soldier's Tale.

But it is just this appreciation of the degree of artistry contained in 'Façade' which offers the opportunity to explore and interpret it more deeply. The linguistic virtuosity of the poetry, when approached on its own terms, yields such a vast volume of evidence, allusion and meaning that the playful innocence of the work 's musical clothing should not tempt us to forget the complex personality of the other character behind the curtain - the poet, Edith Sitwell.