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Arne: Artaxerxes

Arne: Artaxerxes


Christopher Robson (Artaxerxes), Ian Partridge (Artabanes), Patricia Spence (Arbaces), Richard Edgar-Wilson (Rimenes), Catherine Bott (Mandane), Philippa Hyde (Semira)

The Parley of Instruments, Roy Goodman

2CD's for the price of 1

Thomas Arne was one of the great survivors of eighteenth-century theatrical life: in his early twenties he put on an unauthorized production of Acis and Galatea that prodded Handel into taking English seriously as a language for theatrical works. It should therefore come as no surprise that in the three years from 1759 he had three smash hits of his own, each an original masterpiece that effectively created a new genre. Artaxerxes, the second of these, was the first attempt to set a full-blown opera seria libretto in English.

The story of the rebellious captain of the guard’s attempts to usurp the Persian throne in the fifth century BC had captured the attention of several composers, but Arne’s opera was particularly successful because it was an excellent vehicle for great singing. Mandane’s spectacular aria ‘The Soldier, tir’d of War’s Alarms’ remained a show-piece for sopranos through much of the nineteenth century and has never entirely dropped out of the repertory.

When Haydn saw Artaxerxes in 1791 he was delighted with it and reportedly said he ‘had no idea we had such an opera in the English language’.

“Bott gives a masterly performance, with the counter-tenor Christopher Robson also impressive in the castrato title-role, and with Ian Partridge pure-toned and incisive in the role of the villain, Artabanes, even if his sweet tenor hardly conveys evil...from the overture onwards, [Goodman] electrifies the players and singers, pointing rhythms and aerating textures to bring out the charm as well as the vigour of the writing.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Hyperion Dyads - CDD22073

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Boughton: The Immortal Hour

Boughton: The Immortal Hour


Roderick Kennedy (bass), Patricia Taylor (contralto), Anne Dawson (soprano), David Wilson-Johnson (baritone), Valery Hill (soprano), Roger Bryson (bass-baritone), Patricia Taylor (contralto), Maldwyn Davies (tenor)

English Chamber Orchestra, The Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Alan G Melville

“The Immortal Hour is part of theatrical folklore: in London in the early 1920s it ran, unprecedentedly, for 216 consecutive performances and, shortly afterwards, for a further 160 at the first of several revivals. Within a decade it had been played a thousand times. Many in those audiences returned repeatedly, fascinated by the otherworldly mystery of the plot (it concerns the love of a mortal king, Eochaidh, for the faery princess Etain and the destruction of their happiness by her nostalgic longing for the Land of the Ever Young) and by the gentle, lyrical simplicity of its music. In the bleak aftermath of 1918, with civil war in Ireland, political instability at home and the names of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin emerging from obscurity into the headlines, what blessed escapism this blend of Celtic myth and folk-tinged pentatonic sweetness must have been. Boughton's score still has the power to evoke that world, immediately and effortlessly.
It's quiet, sweet music, muted in colour and softly plaintive, and whenever the plot demands more than this the opera sags. Midir, the visitant from the Land of the Ever Young who lures Etain away from the mortal world, really needs music of dangerously heady, Dionysiac incandescence, but Boughton's vocabulary can run to nothing more transported than the prettily lilting Faery Song and some pages of folksy lyricism with a few showy high notes. No less seriously the music has little dramatic grip. Despite all this, The ImmortalHour does have a quality, difficult to define, that's genuinely alluring. It's there in the touching purity of Etain's music (and how movingly Anne Dawson sings the role).
It's there in the moments of true darkness that the music achieves: Dalua, the tormented Lord of Shadow conjures up something of the sombre shudder of the supernatural world.
The performance could hardly speak more eloquently for the opera. Alan G Melville allows the music to emerge from and retreat into shadowy silences; all the principal singers are accomplished and the superb chorus has been placed so as to evoke a sense of space.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

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Chabrier: Briséïs

Chabrier: Briséïs

ou Les amants de Corinthe


Mark Padmore (Hylas), Joan Rodgers (Briséïs), Simon Keenlyside (Le Catéchiste), Michael George (Stratoklès), Kathryn Harries (Thanastô), Gillian Taylor (First Maidservant), Ann Hetherington (Second Maidservant), Graeme Danby (Old Sailor), John Prince (Sailor)

Scottish Opera Chorus & BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Jean-Yves Ossonce

Chabrier’s extraordinary, if incomplete, opera is surely a precursor to Salome and approaches even that most lurid work in the gloriously opulent sensuality of its music. Performed at the Edinburgh Festival by some of the greatest singers of the day and recorded live by Hyperion, this thrilling performance stunned critics and public alike. A genuinely wonderful discovery.

“A highlight of last year's Edinburgh Festival … a memorable experience … gorgeous … an extraordinarily voluptuous and erotic affair. Joan Rodgers sings ravishingly … Ossonce brings this exciting rarity to throbbing life” Sunday Telegraph

“The most opulent discographic discovery of the decade” Fanfare

“For those who heard Chabrier's incomplete magnum opus at last year's Festival this recording will need no recommendation … fabulously rewarding” The Scotsman

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Helios - CDH55428

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Fraser-Simson: The Maid of the Mountains

Fraser-Simson: The Maid of the Mountains


Janis Kelly, Christopher Maltman, Michael George, Richard Suart, Sally Burgess & Donald Maxwell

The New London Light Opera Chorus & The New London Orchestra, Ronald Corp

‘A quite outstandingly successful re-creation of the work … it is a hugely important contribution to preserving our British musical theatre heritage’ (Gramophone)

“One of the major West End hits of its period shines brightly here in a vivid account by a strong team of singers under Ronald Corp.” BBC Music Magazine, November 2006 ****

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Helios - CDH55246

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Handel: Joseph and his Brethren

Handel: Joseph and his Brethren

A Sacred Drama


Yvonne Kenny (soprano), James Bowman (countertenor), Catherine Denley (contralto), Michael George (bass), Connor Burrowes (treble), John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

The King's Consort, Choir of The King's Consort, New College Choir, Oxford, Robert King

“There's never been a complete, professional recording of Joseph and his Brethren, a neglect out of proportion to the merits of its music.
It's full of good and characteristic things, and there are several scenes, including the extended denouement in the last act, that are very moving.
The work begins splendidly, with an unusual overture heralding a deeply felt opening scene for Joseph, languishing in an Egyptian prison. The setting of his prophecy is effective, with seven bars of darting arpeggios for the years of plenty and seven of sparse harmonic writing, adagio, for the famine years.
The rest of Act 1 celebrates Joseph's foresight, preferment and marriage to Asenath, Pharaoh's daughter. The highlights of Act 2 include a prison scene for Simeon, an agonised G minor accompanied recitative and aria, a beautiful, nostalgic idyll for Joseph, and scenes for Joseph with his brothers which incorporate a splendid outburst from Simeon, an aria from Benjamin and a moving chorus from the brothers, a sustained prayer and a richly worked fugue.
The soloists dispatch all this music with spirit and accuracy. James Bowman is in excellent voice in the title-role, full, rich and duly agile in the rapid music. Joseph is well suited to Robert King's way of conducting Handel. This isn't a specially dramatic performance, but carefully moulded and intelligently paced. The choir produces a sound that's bright and firm and the singing is resolute. King is particularly good at shaping the dynamics in a natural and unanimous way.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“I have no reservations about encouraging anyone interested in Handel to buy this set and to acquaint themselves with the many delights of this grossly neglected work” Gramophone Magazine

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Hyperion - CDA67171/3

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Handel: Ottone, Re di Germania

Handel: Ottone, Re di Germania


James Bowman (Ottone), Claron Mcfadden (Teofane), Jennifer Smith (Gismonda), Dominique Visse (Adelberto), Michael George (Emireno) & Catherine Denley (Matilda)

The King’s Consort, Robert King

Handel’s Ottone was one of the most popular operas of the composer’s career, with 34 known performances during his lifetime, beaten only by the 53 performances of Rinaldo. The premiere run in 1723 featured superstar Italian soloists including Senesino and Cuzzoni, and coincided with (and was perhaps the cause of) the height of London’s opera madness, with tickets changing hands for increasingly high prices on the black market. This recording of the 1723 version (Handel adapted the opera in later years for different singers) features James Bowman at the peak of his powers in the title role.

“Ottone is, even for Handel, unusually rich in lovely, heartrending arias” The Times

“Everywhere, the dexterity and resource of Robert King’s Consort lend enchantment” The Independent

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Hyperion - CDS44511/3

(CD - 3 discs)

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Jones, Sidney: The Geisha

Jones, Sidney: The Geisha


Watson, Maltman, Walker, Suart, Vivian, Fitchew, Koc

New London Light Opera Chorus, New London Orchestra, Ronald Corp

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Hyperion - CDA67006

(CD)

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Jones, Sidney: The Geisha

Jones, Sidney: The Geisha

A story of a tea house


Lillian Watson, Christopher Maltman, Sarah Walker, Richard Suart

New London Light Opera Chorus & Orchestra, Ronald Corp

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Helios - CDH55245

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MacCunn: Land of the Mountain and the Flood

MacCunn: Land of the Mountain and the Flood


MacCunn:

The Land of the Mountain and the Flood - Concert Overture, Op. 3

The Dowie Dens o' Yarrow

The Ship o' the Fiend

Excerpts from Jeanie Deans

The Lay of the Last Minstrel


Janice Watson (Jeanie), Lisa Milne (Effie), Jamie MacDougall (Staunton), Peter Sidhom (Deans), Stephen Gadd (Dumbiedykes), Graeme Danby (Constable)

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Scottish Opera Chorus, Martyn Brabbins

Hamish MacCunn: the name itself is a kind of bold statement, and if ever there was a composer who emerged from the glens and firths of Scotland, fully armed, the MacCunn was that person. Yet this is the first recording devoted solely to his work and, with the exception of Land of the Mountain and the Flood, the first of any of his orchestral music.

Described as ‘unquestionably the finest opera of the late Victorian period’, Jeanie Deans was first performed in 1894 and has most recently been revived in 1986 and 1994, on each occasion being highly praised. This is the first recording of any part of it at all.

“The Land of the Mountain and the Flood is a very well-constructed piece, with a memorable tune. Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, in a brilliant new performance, give it fresh life, and the Hyperion recording has range and sparkle.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition

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Hyperion - The Scottish Romantics - CDA66815

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Sullivan - Two Operettas

Sullivan - Two Operettas


Sullivan, A:

The Contrabandista (or The Law of the Ladrones)

The Foresters (or Robin Hood and Maid Marian)


Clair Rutter (soprano), Frances McCafferty (alto), Ashley Catling (tenor), Donal Maxwell (baritone), Richard Suart (baritone), Geoffrey Moses (bass)

The London Chorus, The New London Orchestra, Ronald Corp

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Hyperion - CDA67486

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