Herbert Eileen

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Victor Herbert
LABELS: New World Recordings
ALBUM TITLE: Herbert Eileen
WORKS: Eileen
PERFORMER: Lynda Lee, Mary O’Sullivan (sopranos), Rachel Kelly (mezzo-soprano), EamonnMulhall, Dean Power (tenors), Philip O’Reilly, Andrew Ashwin, Joe Corbett (baritones), Karl Harpur (actor); Orchestra of Ireland/David Brophey
CATALOGUE NO: NW80733

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After twiddling their thumbs with CDs of Victor Herbert’s cello-piano repertoire and collected songs, New World Record’s Foundations of the American Musical Theatre project gets down to business with this highly enjoyable account of the stage work the composer cherished above all others: his ‘romantic comic opera’, Eileen (1917). Henry Blossom’s libretto may be weak, but Herbert’s passion for his Irish homeland keeps the music lilting and sparkling through three short acts of Irish rebellion, British snootiness, and cross-cultural romance. Ohio Light Opera’s 1997 set, burdened with ponderous spoken dialogue, can now be put aside: on the Dublin recording, singing and playing is deliciously idiomatic.

Perhaps Mary O’Sullivan doesn’t beguile as much as she might as the fainting heroine; Rachel Kelly’s singing as Rosie is lovelier. And Eamonn Mulhall’s rebel hero, Barry O’Day, needs more romantic bloom. But all cavils fade beside the zest and polish of David Brophy’s orchestra, and the joyful score – an eclectic mix of Irish folksiness, American panache, grand lyric sweep and sprightly duets.

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Geoff Brown