LABELS: Decca London
WORKS: Princess Ida; Pineapple Poll (arr. Mackerras)
PERFORMER: Kenneth Sandford, Philip Potter, David Palmer, Geoffrey Skitch, John Reed, Donald Adams, Anthony Raffell, George Cook, Elizabeth Harwood, Christene Palmer, Ann Hood, Valerie Masterson; D’Oyly Carte Opera Chorus, RPO/Malcolm Sargent; Philharmonia Orchestra
CATALOGUE NO: 436 810-2 ADD/DDD
The use of leading opera singers doesn’t automatically guaranteethe success of G&S. To my mind Charles Mackerras’s star-laden Mikado (Telarc) was over-mannered in phrasing and tempo, and occasionally obscured Gilbert.
However, no such faults beset Neville Marriner’s splendid Yeomen. Gilbert is especially well treated since the dialogue (in abbreviated form) is included – as in no previous recording of this work, to my knowledge. Thegain in dramatic continuity is heightened by allowing the beginning of a musical number occasionally to overlap dialogue, and by the bold insertion of a few chords to link ‘Rapture, rapture’to the second finale.
Kurt Streit (Fairfax) and Sylvia McNair (Elsie), two Americans in this uniformly excellent cast, sing as good ‘British English’ as the rest, and Thomas Allen calls on his native Durham accent to characterise Jack Point in songas well as in speech. The vocal and orchestral sound is excellent. Here is G&S as fresh, appealing and as musical as it should be, and Sullivan at his very best.
Assorted non-Gilbert works come as bonuses on Decca’s reissues of D’Oyly Carte recordings of 1950-80. Mackerras’s 1983 recording of his ballet score of 1951, Pineapple Poll, based on Sullivan’s music, retains the appropriate sizzle. Malcolm Sargent, prevented from including Princess Ida in his EMI ‘Glyndebourne’ series, here imparts his sympathies to a cast above D’Oyly Carte average – Valerie Masterson soaring in the title role, and John Reed as the comically outrageous King Gama.Arthur Jacobs