Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (in English)

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Chandos Opera in English
WORKS: Un ballo in maschera (in English)
PERFORMER: Dennis O’Neill, Susan Patterson, Linda Richardson, Jill Grove, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Linda Richardson; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, LPO/David Parry
It is not necessarily a bad reflection on this new issue that it cannot hold a candle to some great recordings of a very great opera. The competition is considerable, beginning with Giuseppe Di Stefano, Tito Gobbi and Maria Callas under the baton of Antonino Votto (EMI); admirers of Leontyne Price, Carlo Bergonzi and Luciano Pavarotti will all have their reasons for favouring other recordings, but Riccardo Muti’s scintillating EMI issue with a cast including Plácido Domingo and Piero Cappuccilli is perhaps the best all round. As this list suggests, all the towering Verdians have tackled Un ballo in maschera, and they make Chandos’s cast look a little homely. Only devoted followers of the label’s Opera in English series will need this release, for while in the theatre there are considerable advantages of hearing Amanda Holden’s flowing translation, on disc the absence of Italian snap and crackle is more acutely felt. Why doesn’t the series rather embrace forgotten operas in English, such as those of Stanford? Yet there is no need to be too dismissive. Dennis O’Neill is one of Britain’s most Italianate singers, and he is ardent in the lead role, singing with a verbal clarity not always found elsewhere. Anthony Michaels-Moore has presence as Anckarstoem, Jill Grove is a focused Ulrica and Susan Patterson a grandly-scaled Amelia; Linda Richardson sounds brightly feminine rather than boyish as Oscar. Like the sound, David Parry’s conducting could sparkle a little more, for there is not quite enough sense of what makes this work an encapsulation of the best of Verdi.