Polish premiere of Britten’s ‘The Turn of the Shrew’

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COMPOSERS: Benjamin Britten
LABELS: Dux
ALBUM TITLE: Britten
WORKS: The Turn of the Shrew
PERFORMER: 155 mins (2 discs)
CATALOGUE NO: Dux DUX 1247-48

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Britten’s most renowned chamber opera, though first performed in 1954, astonishingly only received its Polish premiere last year. That concert performance recorded here includes the stage-seasoned Diana Montague as Mrs Grose, a role she has previously played in several productions including the critically acclaimed 2014 Opera Holland Park production in London, the two children also being veterans of that staging. The remaining roles – the governess and the two ghosts – are sung by students from the Yale School of Music.

So it’s a production of some historic interest, yet there are already about a dozen recordings of this much-celebrated work, including the composer’s involving his original, fully-stage experienced cast. In this Polish performance, conducted briskly if rather literally by Lukasz Borowicz, the children are almost as experienced, though Dominic Lynch as Miles was by 2015 clearly nudging adolescence, resulting in some moments of vocal strain. Flora is sung by a young but rather too womanly soprano, making that character appear a stroppy adolescent, rather than credibly as Miles’s younger sibling, as has previously been achieved by the talented young girl singer in Daniel Harding’s superb recording (on Erato). The American singers all have fine voices, and Emily Workman as the governess is touchingly sympathetic in the schoolroom scene, when Miles sings his plaintive ‘Malo’ song; too often, though, her interpretation appears generalised rather than delineating a subtle psychological drama, as revealed by her distinguished predecessors such as Joan Rodgers (for Harding) and Jennifer Vyvyan (for Britten).

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Daniel Jaffé