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CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Great Operatic Arias
see end of review for details
Cheryl Barker (soprano)
Gillian Keith (soprano: 2,8), William Dazeley (baritone: 4,6,12)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry
rec. Blackheath Halls, 5-8 April 2009
Texts enclosed
CHANDOS CHAN3161 [67:43]
Experience Classicsonline

Australian-born soprano Cheryl Barker has a busy career in both Australia and Europe and she has recorded extensively for Chandos. Until this recital disc arrived I hadn’t heard her and the first track, Adriana’s aria from Adriana Lecouvreur at once revealed that the loss definitely was mine. Here was a nuanced, well equalized voice with a natural vibrancy of the kind that announces a singer with spinto quality. A Renata Tebaldi voice, if you like. The second aria from the opera is deeply intense. Lisa’s aria from The Queen of Spades also sound tonally idiomatic and dramatically well conceived. Especially in Lisa’s arioso she depicts the vulnerability, so prominent in many of Tchaikovsky’s female characters. Nedda’s aria from Pagliacci, with its colourful orchestration, is sung with ever-increasing intensity and is followed by the long duet with Silvio. This has always been one of my favourite excerpts from this opera, ever since I heard it with Callas and Panerai. William Dazeley sounds as youthful as Panerai did and is superb in Then will you say why you have enslaved me. And Cheryl Barker sings with silvery beauty in her following solo as well as when they sing in unison. Lovely!

Marguerita’s death from Mephistopheles brings us back to Tebaldi repertoire. Cheryl Barker may not have the creamy tone of Tebaldi but she has the necessary chest-notes and the power, enabling her to give Catalani’s La Wally aria a thrilling dramatic climax.

Jake Heggie’s music for the Graham Greene-based The End of the Affair is fascinating and accessible and Cheryl Barker makes a good case for the opera, in which she sang Sarah at the world premiere. The other contemporary composer, Malcolm Williamson is also well represented with Berthe’s aria from The Violins of Saint-Jacques, the main melody of which has a true romantic cantilena, something between Richard Strauss and Elgar. Superb singing.

‘ Real’ Strauss, finally, in two duets from Arabella. The first one is probably the most famous part from the opera, with the voices of the two sisters soaring so beautifully. I first got to know the duet through a recording with the original Arabella and Zdenka, Viorica Ursuleac and Margit Bokor, recorded shortly after the premiere in Dresden 1933. Cheryl Barker and Gillian Keith have nothing to fear from a comparison and their voices are sufficiently different in timbre to make them a finely contrasting couple, while they blend well in the concluding unison singing.

The final duet between Arabella and Mandryka is a suitable end to this programme - and with glorious singing. Singers like Lisa Della Casa and Kiri Te Kanawa, not to mention Elisabeth Schwarzkopf may have invested this music with more creamy sounds and greater lyricism but Cheryl Barker’s is still a worthy reading and William Dazeley is again splendid.

Excellent recording, premium playing from the LPO under the experienced David Parry, and good notes add to the pleasure of the issue and there are several photographs from the recording sessions. Chandos can be proud with this latest addition to their Opera in English series.

Göran Forsling 

Track listing
Francesco CILEA (1866 - 1950)
Adriana Lecouvreur
1. See now, I am exhausted … I am the humble servant of God’s immortal art (Io son l’umile ancella) [3:15]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893)
The Queen of Spades
2. You need not close the windows just yet … Oh why am I so tearful [4:49]
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857 - 1919)
3. His eyes were flashing with anger … Through the air they soar (Stridono lassu) [4:54]
4. My fate is in your hands … Then will you say why you have enslaved me (E allor perché, di’, tu m’hai stregato (Nedda and Silvio’s duet) [11:34]
Arrigo BOITO (1942 - 1918)
5. To the moonlit waves they cast him (Death of Marguerita) [5:57]
Jake HEGGIE (b. 1961)
The End of the Affair
6. Nineteen forty-four. March. May. June [6:36]
The Queen of Spades
7. It’s nearly midnight now [5:10]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 - 1949)
8. He’s not the one who is right for me … The one who is right for me (Aber der richtige) Arabella and Zdenka’s Duet [6:19]
Francesco CILEA
Adriana Lecouvreur
9. Poor little flower (Poveri fiori) [2:23]
Malcolm WILLIAMSON (1931 - 2003)
The Violin of Saint-Jacques
10. How can I explain to you [4:12]
Alfredo CATALANI (1854 - 1893)
La Wally
11. I’ll float into the distance (Ebben? Ne andrò lontana) [3:48]
12. I’m very glad, Mandryka (Das war sehr gut, Mandryka) Arabella and Mandryka’s Duet [7:41]



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