COMPOSERS: Boito,Cilea,Jake Heggie,Leoncavallo,Malcolm Williamson & Catalani,Strauss,Tchaikovsky
WORKS: Arias by Cilea, Tchaikovsky, Leoncavallo, Boito, Jake Heggie, Strauss, Malcolm Williamson & Catalani
PERFORMER: Cheryl Barker (soprano); London PO/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3161
Any criticisms in what follows should be prefaced by awed admiration for Cheryl Barker’s achievements as a fine singing actress. Her portrayal of Puccini’s Suor Angelica included a Callas moment of naked anguish and her Salome was the most powerful I’ve seen since Hildegard Behrens.
Alas, Strauss’s final scene is not part of this generous selection, though we do have Barker achieving poise and dignity, if not quite the ideal Straussian bloom, as Arabella. Anguish is more the keynote, coming across best in Margarita’s prison aria from Boito’s Mefistofele and Lisa’s midnight soliloquy in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades.
Generous lyric-dramatic soprano intensity is also showcased by an overblown scene from Heggie’s Graham Greene-based The End of the Affair and an attractive number from fellow-Australian Malcolm Williamson’s The Violins of Saint Jacques. Upper register focus can sometimes be a challenge, and the diction doesn’t always meet the Peter Moores ideal, probably because Barker wisely never sacrifices line to text Josephine Barstow-fashion.
William Dazeley sounds a little too old for Leoncavallo’s young stud, and it’s surprising that husband Peter Coleman-Wright wasn’t drafted in for Mandryka. David Parry gets some dewy sounds from the LPO, and it’s good to have the lovely orchestral introduction to the Arabella final scene, though the curtain goes at a lick the orchestra can’t articulate. A mix of three and four star performances, then, so let’s err on
the generous side. David Nice