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Reviews,
January 2005

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Two recording reviews from Jonathan Strong:

- GILBERT & OFFENBACH?!
- SULLIVAN WITHOUT GILBERT

RUDDIGORE IN KEENE, NH

Note: Harvard PIRATES

Two recording reviews from Jonathan Strong:

1) GILBERT & OFFENBACH?!

Now we have a chance to hear what Gilbert's translation of Offenbach's LES BRIGANDS sounds like, thanks to the Ohio Light Opera and Albany Records (2-CD set TROY660/661). It's a delightful production from the group that's given us recordings with dialogue of IDA, UTOPIA, GRAND DUKE and YEOMEN. Gilbert translated Meilhac and Halevy's French for a bilingual edition of the libretto in 1871. It's pretty much a literal translation, so I can't claim it's Gilbertian; what it reveals is how Meilhac-and-Haievian some Gilbertianisms are. The situations forecast PIRATES (the Brigands versus the inept Royal Carbineers) and GONDOLIERS and DUKE (the penniless noble deputation, as in Plaza-Toros and Monte Carlos), and there are many passages of dialogue (considerably cut for the recording) that seem right out of Savoy opera. What's missing, naturally, is the brilliant verbal and rhythmic invention of the mature Gilbert, but so bouncy is Offenbach's score that there's not a dull moment. When Gilbert's translation was at last given in London in 1889 (with Lilian Russell) it was over his objections. The Ohio text differs in many small ways from the 1871 printing, but I don't know if the adjustments were made in 1889 or 2003; in either case they attempt to fit the words more felicitously to the music. What I do know is that Gilbert himself did not make the adjustments because he made his translation as a parallel text, not a stage adaptation. But 95%of what you hear is Gilbert, and it's a treat to hear his words sung to the infectious score from across the channel.

…AND NOW SULLIVAN WITHOUT GILBERT
Hyperion Records and conductor Ronald Corp have followed up their splendid offerings of THE GOLDEN LEGEND and THE PRODIGAL SON (coupled with The BOER WAR TE DEUM) with a very welcome CD of Sullivan's early comic opera THE CONTRABANDISTA and his late (1892) incidental music for Tennyson's THE FORESTERS. This latter is a warm, tuneful set of songs and choruses in the tradition of English folk music, with a foretaste of the revival promoted a decade later by Vaughan Williams's generation. The opera, written right after COX AND BOX, has an equally catchy and clever score with a Rossinian flair--and a real Spanish bolero to boot. The performances, especially Richard Suart's as the British tourist Grigg, are first rate. My own quibble is that former D'Oyly Carte contralto Frances McCafferty's impersonation of Inez lacks all zest; she sounds like a drawing-room soloist and not a Brigand chieftainess. This is the opera that Sullivan and F.C.Burnand expanded into the full-length CHIEFTAIN in 1894, and although the later version is, to my mind, finally the preferred one, there are delights (especially in the second act) that Sullivan did not carry over to the new score, so THE CONTRABANDISTA deserves to be heard on its own terms, as Sullivan's first fully-fledged comic opera, arias, ensembles, choruses and all. Let's hope Hyperion keeps up its series going. There are rumors of an IVANHOE!

    -- JONATHAN STRONG
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RUDDIGORE IN KEENE, NH

NEGASS members may not be aware of the annual G&S offerings of the Raylynmor Opera at the Colonial Theater in Keene (website: www.Raylynmor.com). On November 19 I saw a quite fine RUDDIGORE (Their spring offering is LA CENERENTOLA). The company consists of professionals, semi-professionals, and local folks, which makes for a somewhat uneven ensemble, but there was great pleasure to be had in Daniel Kamalic's note-and-word-perfect Ruthven, the best sung and acted wouldn't-be Baronet I've seen in years. And Anne Dreyer's Rose was beautifully sung and enacted with poise and grace if without quite enough absurdity. The real find was Newfoundland-born E. Mark Murphy, a true character tenor with a resounding voice, perfect diction, great dance steps, and a fine sense of character, the ideal G&S tenor. John Iverson's Despard and Tom O'Toole's Roderic were both effective, and Julane Deener's Margaret was funny but neither her voice nor her characterization quite pulled it off. As is often the case the women's chorus sang better than the men's, but the ghost scene looked great (the portraits held their poses, without scrims, for the entire act) and the somewhat superannuated bucks and blades were, effectively, left alone on the stage at the Act I curtain, having given up on prettiness rural and quite philosophical about it. Simple and-colorful sets and a beautiful old theater and a fine orchestra under Peter Szep made for a memorable evening. Artistic Director Dorothy Yanish runs a fine little company. Check it out next year!

--STEPHEN TRUSTY    

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Note from tsw: We hear the Harvard PIRATES was extremely good, and wanted to see it Ourselves, but it sold out too quickly. If any lucky NEGASSER saw it, please send Us a review!


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