Yesterday evening BBC Radio 3 broadcast the complete incidental music for Wasps that Vaughan Williams wrote for the Cambridge Greek Play in 1909. This meant including enough of the play to let the music make sense. The English version by David Pountney was packed with modern relevance, without departing too much from Aristophanes, for my taste at least.
My problem yesterday was that choir practice did not finish in time for me to listen to the overture and the opening scene. The good news is that the BBC is going to issue a CD of the performance in the spring.
The CD won't be a great deal of help when Wasps is on the A level syllabus; the chief delight for me was the music. And I would really like to make out the words of the Parabasis, which RVW turned into a 20 minute cantata. If David Pountney was as clever and witty in those words, which were inaudible on first hearing, as in the parts that I could understand, the Parabasis will be well worth hearing again.
By the way, it came as a real shock to me to hear a tune that RVW (later?) used as a hymn tune to “See the conqueror mounts in triumph” in the English Hymnal. Still, it's a good tune, and I suppose the composer thought that he might as well use it because after the 1909 performances his music would never be heard again. I'm glad he was wrong.