Thursday 26 January 2006

Opera that speaks your language?

Norman Lebrecht's recent article in the London Evening Standard was ostensibly about the Mozart Centenary, but referred to Chandos's folorn Opera in English series. This seems a rather an unfair description of a rather interesting project.

Granted the casting and the conducting of the operas in the set have sometimes had a rather one size fits all sort of feeling. This is particularly true, I'm afraid, of David Parry's conducting. But Parry is not the only conductor to be involved, Sir Charles Mackerras has contributed world class versions of The Magic Flute, The Bartered Bride, Jenufa and Osud plus his older recordings of La Traviata and Julius Caesar. These last 2 are part of a rather neat aspect of this series; besides the current phase of recording, a number of older operas have been included. This means that not only do we have Mackerras's contribution, but such delights as Janet Baker's Charlotte in Werther and the Goodall Ring.

The opera in English series has another interesting aspect, the ability to hear performances by a wide range of contemporary Anglophone singers. Recent recordings include such delights as Andrew Shore's Dulcanamara and Don Pasquale. Without these recordings, this fine singer would be woefully under recorded. The same goes for many of the other fine singers such as Anne Howells, Dennis O'Neill, Yvonne Kenny, Diana Montague.... These latter 3 have contributed not only fine opera recordings but recitals as well. This is one of the delights of the series, the ability to hear these singers in a wide variety of roles.

I come from a generation where the talented singers who performed with ENO were woefully underused by the recording industry. This means that we have precious few complete recordings from people like Valerie Masterson, Pauline Tinsley, Josephine Barstow, Kenneth Collins, the list is endless. So even if individual recordings are less than ideal, it is wonderful to think that so many talented people are being involved in the series.

So variable yes, but never less than interesting and certainly not forlorn

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