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Walton: Troilus and Cressida

Walton: Troilus and Cressida

(complete opera, original version with the role of Cressida for soprano)


Clive Bayley (Calkas), James Thornton (Antenor), Arthur Davies (Troilus), Nigel Robson (Pandarus), Judith Howarth (Cressida), Yvonne Howard (Evadne), David Owen-Lewis (Horaste), Alan Opie (Diomede)

Opera North Chorus, English Northern Philharmonia, Richard Hickox

“Troilus and Cressida is here powerfully presented as an opera for the central repertory, traditional in its red-blooded treatment of a big classical subject. Few operas since Puccini's have such a rich store of instantly memorable tunes as this. Walton wrote the piece in the wake of the first great operatic success of his rival, Benjamin Britten. What more natural than for Walton, by this time no longer an enfantterrible of British music but an Establishment figure, to turn his back on operas devoted like Britten's to offbeat subjects and to go back to an older tradition using a classical love story, based on Chaucer (not Shakespeare). Though he was praised for this by critics in 1954, he was quickly attacked for being old-fashioned. Even in the tautened version of the score offered for the 1976 Covent Garden revival – with the role of the heroine adapted for the mezzo voice of Dame Janet Baker – the piece was described by one critic as a dodo. Yet as Richard Hickox suggests, fashion after 40 years matters little, and the success of the Opera North production in January 1995 indicated that at last the time had come for a big, warmly Romantic, sharply dramatic work to be appreciated on its own terms.
This recording was made under studio conditions during the run of the opera in Leeds. The discs confirm what the live performances suggested, that Walton's tautening of the score, coupled with a restoration of the original soprano register for Cressida, proved entirely successful.
Hickox conducts a performance that's magnetic from beginning to end. The scene is atmospherically set in Act 1 by the chorus, initially off-stage, but then with the incisive Opera North chorus snapping out thrilling cries of 'We are accurs'd!'.
The first soloist one hears is the High Priest, Calkas, Cressida's father, about to defect to the Greeks, and the role is superbly taken by the firm, dark-toned Clive Bayley. Troilus's entry and his declaration of love for Cressida bring Waltonian sensuousness and the first statements of the soaring Cressida theme. Arthur Davies isn't afraid of using his head voice for pianissimos, so contrasting the more dramatically with the big outbursts and his ringing top notes. This is a young-sounding hero, Italianate of tone. Similarly, Judith Howarth's Cressida is quite girlish, and she brings out the vulnerability of the character along with sweetness and warmth. After Calkas has defected to the Greeks, her cry of 'He has deserted us and Troy!' conveys genuine fear, with her will undermined.
All told, although some fine music has been cut, the tautened version is far more effective both musically and dramatically, with no longueurs.
The role of Diomede, Cressida's Greek suitor, can seem one-dimensional, but Alan Opie in one of his finest performances on record sharpens the focus, making him a genuine threat, with the element of nobility fully allowed. As Antenor, James Thornton sings strongly but is less steady than the others, while Yvonne Howard is superb in the mezzo role of Evadne, Cressida's treacherous servant and confidante. Not just the chorus but the orchestra of Opera North respond with fervour.
Naturally and idiomatically they observe the Waltonian rubato and the lifting of jazzily syncopated rhythms which Hickox as a dedicated Waltonian instils, echoing the composer's own example. As for the recorded sound, the bloom of the acoustic enhances the score, helped by the wide dynamic range.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

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Chandos - CHAN9370

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Walton: Troilus and Cressida

Walton: Troilus and Cressida


Judith Howarth (soprano), Yvonne Howard (mezzo-soprano), Arthur Davies (tenor), Nigel Robson (tenor), Brian Cookson (tenor), Peter Bodenham (tenor), Keith Mills (tenor), Alan Opie (baritone) James Thornton (baritone), Clive Bayley (bass), Bruce Budd (bass), Stephen Dowson (bass) & David Owen-Lewis (bass)

Chorus of Opera North & English Northern Philharmonia, Richard Hickox

Released as a part of the Richard Hickox Legacy series, this essential recording of Walton’s Troilus and Cressida is widely recognised as the finest available.

Edward Greenfield wrote in Gramophone that ‘even among Chandos’ many bold achievements over the years, this magnificent set of Troilus and Cressida stands out... [Hickox’s] expressive warmth is matched by his understanding of Walton’s fiery side, with magnificent performances form the entire cast’.

Troilus and Cressida, William Walton’s first opera was commissioned by the BBC in 1947 although only after seven years, in 1954, did the premiere take place, in Covent Garden. For a revival in 1976, Walton removed about thirty minutes of music and adapted the soprano part of Cressida to bring it within the range of the mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker. The version recorded here follows Walton’s more concise score whilst returning the part of Cressida to its original soprano register.

Based on Chaucer’s classic love-tale Troilus and Criseyde, the opera represents Walton’s desire to engage with traditional operatic themes. Walton wanted to write a romantic, ‘Pucciniesque’ opera and the rich scoring and many memorable melodies certainly invite comparison.

Walton dedicated Troilus and Cressida to his wife, Lady Susana Walton, who contributes a personal note in the booklet.

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Chandos 241 - The Hickox Legacy - CHAN241-50

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Verdi: Don Carlos

Verdi: Don Carlos


Verdi:

Don Carlo

Sung in English (translation by Andrew Porter). Four-act version.


Julian Gavin (Don Carlos), Janice Watson (Elisabeth), Alastair Miles (Philip II), William Dazeley (Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa), Jane Dutton (Eboli), Sir John Tomlinson (Grand Inquisitor), Julia Sporsén (Thibault), Clive Bayley (Old Monk)

Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North, Richard Farnes

3 CDs for the price of 2

Based on Schiller’s play, Verdi’s magnificent and arguably greatest opera, Don Carlos, has everything – intense personal passion and pain enmeshed in the web of political and religious agendas – utterly relevant to today and superbly expressed in a score of gripping intensity.

This recording was made in Leeds Town Hall between Opera North’s May/June 2009 production and is the first recording of the work in English. Conducted by Richard Farnes, the performances knocked everyone who witnessed them sideways.

The Observer thought ‘The work came alive as never before, its passionate exchanges between king, son, stepmother and loyal friend all the more incandescent, an endorsement for the Peter Moores Foundation “Opera in English” series on Chandos, who record this Don Carlos for future release.’ York Press wrote ‘This is a drama torrid enough to satisfy the senses on many levels,’ whilst The Spectator declared Richard Farnes, ‘the best Verdian of our time.’

Tenor Julian Gavin takes the title role, and is ably assisted by William Dazeley as Rodrigo, Janice Watson as Elizabeth, Alistair Miles as Philip II and Sir John Tomlinson as the Grand Inquisitor.

“Best of the principals are Alastair Miles's distinctive King Philip; John Tomlinson's terrifying Grand Inquisitor and Clive Bayley's Monk. Opera North's choral and orchestral forces are both splendid, and conductor Richard Farnes proves a superb interpreter of the score.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2009 ****

“...a well integrated, cleanly delineated performance...The outstanding element is Richard Farnes's forceful and vivid conducting of a finely responsive orchestra.” The Telegraph, 2nd December 2009 ****

“Richard Farnes's outstanding conducting exudes confidence and regularly catches the ear with its theatrical flair and sense of over-arching power” The Guardian, 15th January 2010 ***

“It’s a pleasure to hear so many of the words, particularly from Julian Gavin’s plangent-toned Infante, William Dazeley’s ardent, lyrical Posa and John Tomlinson’s terrifying, gnarly-voiced Inquisitor... yet the best reason for acquiring the set is Richard Farnes’s superb conducting.” Sunday Times, 17th January 2010 ***

“Under Richard Farnes, the orchestral playing will stand comparison with the acknowledged best...The style also impresses as bearing the imprint of a genuine Verdi conductor, with playing where, at times, one feels as though the instruments are contributing their own apt dialogue to the drama.” Gramophone Magazine, April 2010

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3162(3)

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Berkeley, M: Baa Baa Black Sheep

Berkeley, M: Baa Baa Black Sheep

A Jungle Tale


Malcolm Lorimer, William Dazeley, Ann Taylor-Morley, George Mosley, Eileen Hulse, Henry Newman, Fiona Kimm, Philip Sheffield, Mark Holland, Clive Bayley, Paul McCann, Brian Cookson

English Northern Philharmonia, Chorus of Opera North, Paul Daniel

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Chandos - CHAN10186

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Mozart: Idomeneo, K366

Mozart: Idomeneo, K366

Sung in English (translation by David Parry)


Bruce Ford (Idomeneo), Diana Montague (Idamante), Rebecca Evans (Ilia), Susan Patterson (Electra), Ryland Davies (Arbace), Nicolai Gedda (High Priest of Neptune), Clive Bayley (Voice of Neptune)

Opera North Orchestra & Chorus, David Parry

“Bruce Ford's distinctive tenor is powerfully expressive...The cast of women is outstanding...The vivid Chandos recording brings excellent balances between voices and orchestra, with words admirably clear. Mozart's score has never sounded fresher.” Penguin Guide, 2010 ***

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3103

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Berg: Wozzeck

Berg: Wozzeck

Sung in English (translation by Richard Stokes)


Andrew Shore (Wozzeck), Dame Josephine Barstow (Marie), Alan Woodrow (Drum Major), Peter Bronder (Andres), Stuart Kale (Hauptmann), Clive Bayley (Doktor), Leslie John Flanagan (1.Handwerkbursch), Iain Paterson (2.Handwerkbursch), John Graham-Hall (Narr), Jean Rigby (Margaret)

Susan Singh Choristers, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra, Paul Daniel

“This is one of the finest recordings so far in Chandos's 'Opera in English' series, and there's certainly no need to make allowances for the performance because of the language. A Wozzeck to be measured against the very finest modern recordings, a genuine alternative to any one of them, linguistically and musically.” Andrew McGregor, bbc.co.uk, 9th July 2003

“This is a fine Wozzeck; the perfect complement to the outstanding Abbado version which has been the top recommendation for so long.
Abbado's was recorded live in Vienna, and any studio recording of an opera risks sounding score-bound when compared with a real, live performance in the theatre. But with Wozzeck a studio ambience can bring real advantages, especially if it underlines the kind of claustrophobic intimacy and obsessiveness which theatrical histrionics inevitably broaden and – in some instances – coarsen. Ranting and raving are kept to a minimum in Paul Daniel's interpretation, and the result is intensely moving without in any way underplaying the music's visceral dramatic power.
One result of Daniel's concentrated yet warmly expressive moulding of the score is a strong sense of its late-Romantic background in Strauss and also in Mahler. The Philharmonia play superbly throughout, and the recording successfully balances a spacious orchestral canvas of the widest dynamic range while placing the voices effectively. Nor are there any weak links in the cast, with three tenors, John Graham- Hall, Stuart Kale and Alan Woodrow, making particularly telling contributions. Josephine Barstow has one or two squally moments in delineating Marie's bewilderment and fear, but her voice remains in remarkably good shape, and the character's conflicting impulses are brilliantly conveyed. Shore is one of the best operatic baritones of our time, and he dominates the drama with an utterly convincing blend of the menacing and the pathetic. Moreover, his way with the text is exemplary.
This performance proves that an English Wozzeck can easily match the impact of the best German performances. Its virtues are such that it makes as powerful a case for this extraordinary work as any other version.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3094

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Puccini: Turandot

Puccini: Turandot

Sung in English


Jane Eaglen (Turandot), Dennis O'Neill (Cavaradossi), Mary Plazas (Liù), Nicolai Gedda (Emperor Altoum), Clive Bayley (Timur), Peter Sidhom (Ping), Mark Le Brocq (Pang/Prince of Persia), Peter Wedd (Pong), Simon Bailey (Mandarin)

Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, New London Children's Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra, David Parry

“The glory of the Chandos set of Turandot is not just the spectacular, wide-ranging sound, bringing out details never heard before, but the singing of Jane Eaglen in the title-role, and here the voice is recorded with a satisfying firmness and precision apt for the icy princess.” Penguin Guide, 2010 edition ***

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3086

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Britten: Billy Budd

Britten: Billy Budd


Philip Langridge (Vere), Simon Keenlyside (Billy), John Tomlinson (Claggart), Alan Opie (Mr Redburn), Matthew Best (Mr Flint), Alan Ewing (Mr Ratcliffe), Francis Egerton (Red Whiskers), Quentin Hayes (Donald), Clive Bayley (Dansker), Mark Padmore (Novice), Roderick Williams (Novice's Friend/Arthur Jones), Richard Coxon (Squeak), Daniel Norman (Maintop)

London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Tiffin Boys' Choir, Richard Hickox

“Britten's score is so often praised that we tend to neglect the distinction of Forster and Crozier's libretto, sung in this set with unerring conviction by its three principals. Keenlyside and Langridge deserve special mention for their arresting sensitivity throughout the final scenes, when they make the utterances of Billy and Vere so poetic and moving: refined tone allied to eloquent phrasing – the epitome of English singing at its very best. Keenlyside has a voice of just the right weight and an appreciation of how Billy must be at once sympathetic and manly. From first to last you realise the lad's personal magnetism in vocal terms alone, explaining the crew's admiration for his qualities. Langridge is the complete Vere, suggesting the man's easy command of men, his poetic soul, his agony of mind at the awful decision placed in his hands to sacrifice Billy. At the opposite end of the human spectrum, Claggart's dark, twisted being and his depravity of thought are ideally realised by Tomlinson, give or take one or two moments of unsteadiness when his voice comes under pressure. In supporting roles there's also much to admire. Mark Padmore conveys all the Novice's terror in a very immediate, tortured manner. Clive Bayley's Dansker is full of canny wisdom. Alan Opie is a resolute Mr Redburn.
Matthew Best's is an appropriately powerful Mr Flint, though his large, gritty bass-baritone records uneasily.
Hickox conducts with all his old zest for marshalling large forces, searching out every cranny of the score, and the London Symphony forces respond with real virtuosity. Speeds now and again sound a shade too deliberate, and there's not always quite that sense of an ongoing continuum you feel in both of Britten's readings, which are by and large tauter. But the Chandos, using the revised two-act version, comes into most direct competition with Britten's later Decca set. The latter still sounds well, though inevitably it hasn't the aural range of the Chandos recording. Yet nobody will ever quite catch the creative tension the composer brings to his own work. For all that, the Chandos set benefits from this trio of imaginative singers, and most newcomers will be satisfied with its appreciable achievement.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“the finest cast of principals yet assembled...In Philip Langridge the role of Vere has found its most thoughtful interpreter yet...Comparably magnetic is John Tomlinson's Claggart, the personification of evil, chillingly malevolent in every inflexion...Keenlyside as Billy gains over all rivals in the fresh, youthful incisiveness of the voice” Penguin Guide, 2010 ***

“an outstanding trio of principals – Philip Langridge's erudite, conflicted Captain Vere, Simon Keenlyside's virile yet innocent-sounding Billy and John Tomlinson's pitch-black Claggart. The smaller roles, too, are beautifully characterised, with cameos from young British singers who would go on to make their mark as front-ranking interpreters of Britten's music.” Maurice Millward, Presto Classical, March 2014

Presto Disc of the Week

1st December 2008

Building a Library

First Choice - January 2013

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Chandos - CHAN9826

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Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (highlights)

Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (highlights)

Sung in English (translation by David Lloyd-Jones)


John Tomlinson (Boris), Stuart Kale (Prince Shuisky), Clive Bayley (Varlaam), Joan Rodgers (Xenia), Susan Parry (Feodor), Yvonne Howard (Old Nurse), Matthew Best (Pimen)

Opera North Chorus, English Northern Philharmonia, Paul Daniel

“John Tomlinson has made the part of Boris his own, and this generous, 75-minute selection of excerpts from Boris Godunov is highly recommendable, even when compared with current Russian versions of Mussorgsky's masterpiece.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

Penguin Guide

Rosette Winner

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3007

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Verdi: Il Trovatore

Verdi: Il Trovatore

Sung in English (translation by Tom Hammond)


Sharon Sweet (Leonora), Anne Mason (Azucena), Dennis O'Neill (Manrico), Alan Opie (Luna), Clive Bayley (Ferrando), Helen Williams (Inez)

London Philharmonic Orchestra, Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, David Parry

'‘…I cannot think of a performance I have enjoyed more than this one… It is one of the series’ best.’' Gramophone

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Chandos Opera in English - CHAN3036

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