Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bellini/Wagner
WORKS: Operatic scenes and arias
PERFORMER: Jane Eaglen (soprano), Anne Marie Owens (Mezzo-soprano); Orchestra of the age of Enlightenment, orchestra of the royal opera house, Covent Garden/Mark Elder
This is by any standards a striking issue, but for all the intelligence and commitment of the performers it will not please everyone. The Bellini excerpts are hugely enjoyable. Interpretatively Eaglen seems to be more at one with Callas than Sutherland even if she does not quite have La Divina’s rapt inwardness. Nevertheless, her Bellini is impressive and will bring joy to many. Mark Elder and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment accompany with a fine sense of atmosphere in which the plangent tone of the period woodwind instruments adds an engaging fragility to the proceedings.


The Wagner excerpts I found much less appealing. While Eaglen’s Isolde is undoubtedly beautiful and magnificently supported by Elder and the Royal Opera House Orchestra, she begins the Liebestod in a state of ecstasy and stays there, both avoiding Wagner’s ‘growing rapture’ and giving little feeling that these final sentences are mainly questions. Brünnhilde’s Immolation, from Götterdämmerung, has more obvious motivation, but the cultivated beauty of line rarely externalises the meaning of the text. Two minutes of Flagstad in the same repertoire shows that Wagner can and must be more than this. Jan Smaczny