“Joubert knows how to write dramatically, revealing some Bergian overtones in the ethereal woodwind writing and shades of Britten in the brittle exchanges with St. John Rivers and Jane, but it manages not to feel derivative. Joubert knows how to end a scene, too; act I’s declaration of love is genuinely thrilling, a brief sugar rush in the dark writing, and the delicious upward scales of Jane and Rochester’s final duet of reconciliation give a spark of happiness to this brooding, unsettled score, without ever becoming saccharine. Strauss, himself would have been proud of the wistful final bars, as calm, autumnal, and valedictory as the Four Last Songs.
“It helps that the performance convinces utterly. Kenneth Woods, conductor obtains some polished playing from the English Symphony Orchestra, with the textures of this dense score clear and expressive. The cast is strong too, many of whom doubling up for the various bit parts. Rising baritone David Stout is the biggest name and is suitably dark-voiced and dramatic as Rochester. April Fredrick, soprano is a revelation, bright-toned and urgent, and she gives Jane not just inner strength and her strong moral principle but some femininity and allure. She copes well with the Straussian lines of the final act and gives full weight to Kenneth Birkin’s skilful libretto. If nothing else, Jane’s determination and lack of submission have survived the adaptation well; this remains a proudly feminist role, and Fredrick does it justice. Others are no less memorable: Mark Milhofer is a cold, controlling Reverend Rivers (his proposal to Jane is wince-inducing) and there is fine work from Clare McCaldin as both Mrs. Fairfax and the Rivers’s Housekeeper….what a coherent, well-written work it is.”