WORKS: The Yeomen of the Guard
PERFORMER: Sylvia McNair, Jean Rigby, Kurt Streit, Thomas Allen, Robert Lloyd; Academy and Chorus of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 438 138-2 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