Saturday 7 July 2007

Sills and Crespin

There have been obituaries in the recent days for Beverley Sills and for Regine Crespin. Sills was a singer who I never heard live. Though she was in my thoughts recently because last night we went to see Bellini's Capuletti e Montecchi at Nevill Holt and Sills recorded it with Janet Baker as Romeo. The recording never did really get fabulous reviews but it remains in my memory as one of Baker's rare excursions into Italian early 19th century opera. I'm not sure whether its still available, but it is certainly a recording I'd like to acquire.

Crespin I saw twice. The first time was in recital in Scotland at the Usher Hall (I think) with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. She did a lighter recital, the most serious piece being an extract from Massenet's Manon. The encores included an item from the Chocolate Soldier, I seem to remember, and the drinking song from Offenbach's La Perichole. The most remarkable thing about the recital was her pink jersey dress trimmed at the bottom with ostrich feathers!

Later on, in the 1980's I think, I saw her performance as the Old Prioress in the Covent Garden revival of Poulenc's Carmelites (with amongst others Pauline Tinsely, Marie McLaughlin, Eiddwen Harrhy and Valerie Masterson). Crespin's was a fabulous performance that stood out amongst many other fine performances.

But I really came to love Crespin's voice from disc. Her recording of extracts from Les Troyens; her early recital of French romantic opera including the excerpt from Reyer's Sigurd (now that's an opera I'd like to hear)and her live Gluck from South America (not brilliant recordings, but what a performance).

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