GREAT OPERATIC ARIAS: JOHN
George Frederic HANDEL (1695-1759) Acis and
Galatea - I rage, I rage, I rage, I melt, I burn
O ruddier than the
cherry. Samson - Honour and arms scorn such a foe.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-91) Die Entführung aus dem Serail
- Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden; Ich gehe, doch rate ich dira;
Vivat Bacchus! Bacchus lebe!b.
(1813-1901) Simon Boccangra - A te l'estremo
Il lacerato spirito. Ernani - Che mai vegg'io!
e tuo credevid.
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-81) Mephistopheles'
Song of the Flea. Alexander BORODIN (1833-87)
Prince Igor - No rest, no slumber; The sober life of boredomd;
Alexander DARGOMIZHSKY (1813-69) Russalka - Miller's Song.
Liza LEHMANN (1862-1918) Myself when young.
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900) The Mikado
- A more humane Mikado
My object all sublimed.
Jacques OFFENBACH Geneviève de Brabant - We're public guardians
bold yet waryc.
Includes bonus track of Mussorgsky's My soul is sad from Boris
Godunov (from CHAN3007). All tracks sung in
John Tomlinson (bass);
Philharmonia Orchestra/David Parry with aHelen Williams (soprano);
bBarry Banks (tenor); cAndrew Shore (bass-baritone);
Chandos CHAN3044 [DDD]
It's discs like this one that make one take stock and realise how lucky we
are to boast a singer of the calibre of John Tomlinson. He has sung in every
major opera house (being a Bayreuth regular since 1988). His repertoire is
enormous, ranging from Handel (represented here) to Birtwistle (regrettably
not represented here). Tomlinson realises that Handel can take a robust approach,
and delivers a full-blooded account of both the famous O Ruddier than
the cherry and the Samson excerpt. He makes an imposing Osmin
(Entführung), although I question his decision to scoop up to
the first note of Wer ein Liebchen hat gefunden. Still, the lower
register delivers the fruity bass notes Mozart demands and the excerpts are
immersed in the spirit of comic opera. Only Helen Williams' weak lower register
detracts at one point, but on the credit side Barry Banks' light tenor seems
ideally suited to the task.
Tomlinson truly excels in the heavier roles, so when the Boccangra
excerpt arrives at track 5, we really know we've arrived. Boccangra
has never joined the pantheon of Verdi's great operas (time for a reappraisal,
methinks), but it's obvious that Tomlinson totally believes in his chosen
excerpt (Fiesco's Scene and Aria). His entreaty, Pray now, Maria, for
me is truly heartfelt. Similarly, the other Verdi snippet is culled from
Ernani and Tomlinson gives it its full weight. This is true Verdi
singing, the involvement complete.
Russian music seems particularly suited to Tomlinson's voice and talents.
He successfully takes on three parts from Prince Igor (No rest,
no slumber seems Boris-like in its painful entreaties) and seems
to identify fully with each character (the encore track on the disc, from
Chandos' famous recording of Boris Godunov, serves as a timely reminder
of his abilities in that opera). The lighter items are a true delight. Tomlinson
lets his hair down in the Mikado's Song and in the Offenbach duet. The unexpected
success of the lighter side of this compilation is the Miller's Song from
Dargomizhsky's Russalka. This was one of Chaliapin's favourite roles,
and Tomlinson brings bags of jollity to it.
The 'official' final track, (from Pirates) is a joy mainly because of Tomlinson's
emphatically north-of Watford accent ('muther', 'smuther', 'anuther', 'an
appy' etc) and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir's enthusiastic championship of
battered vowel sounds. The encore, with the Chorus of Opera North and the
English Northern Philharmonia under Paul Daniel, is a reminder of Tomlinson's
great (a much abused word, here the only one to use) reading of Boris.