Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Giuseppi VERDI (1813 - 1901)
Il Trovatore (The Troubadour)

Alan Opie (Count)
Clive Bayley (Ferrando)
Sharon Sweet (Dona Leonora)
Helen Williams (Inez)
Anne Mason (Azucena)
Denis O'Neill (Manrico)
Marc le Brocq (Ruiz)
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra
David Parry (cond)
Recorded 16 - 20 December 1999.
Blackheath Halls, London.
Chandos Opera in English CHAN 3036(2)  DDD 2 CD's [134.56]

How does one approach recorded opera sung in other than its original language - or more relevantly in English in this case? As a poor relation to be looked down on with some pity and disdain, like a unwanted present to be hidden away in a corner, or as a valid alternative for the buyer to consider? Certainly to some people the proffered article is felt to be inferior and merely an imitation - not to be thought of as 'the real thing'. To others - who would probably argue that their minds are more open and their eyes unblinkered - they see this approach as a means of widening the appeal of the art form they love and perhaps introducing it to a wider audience. The majority of us would probably take the pragmatic view and simply ask the question - does it work?

These comments are prompted by this new release from Chandos in their Opera in English Series. The Penguin Guide to Reviewing - Chapter One - recommends that normally a reader should be kept dangling with bated breath for the final lines from the reviewer that would give a summation of all the erudite words which precede them, but in this case, having started with a question, an early answer is called for. Yes, in this instance it does work. The Troubador, as we shall call it here, is an excellent piece of work and can be unreservedly recommended.

The translation from the original is the key here to success or failure. In this instance Tom Hammond has provided an English version that makes perfect sense on the printed page and matches the music splendidly. The text in the booklet provided is in English only, so any comparison with the original Italian would need to be looked for elsewhere, but unless the listener is pedantic to the nth degree I would not believe he would feel it necessary.

David Parry's pacing of the work is convincing and it would be difficult to quibble at any point in the opera with his tempi. The passion and power of this most melodramatic of operas are captured and with the LPO in top form and a typically splendid Chandos recording it makes a strong impact. The Chorus (The Geoffrey Mitchell Choir) is quite magnificent and it makes a significant contribution.

The team Chandos have assembled for this recording is a fine one. The principals - familiar names all - are without a weak link among them and singly or in ensemble they succeed. As the gipsy Azucena, Anne Mason was particularly impressive in the pivotal part that underpins much of the story - moving and intense in her role. Sharon Sweet portrayed Leonora with feeling and her show-piece arias were beautifully sung. The male principals, with their highly dramatic parts were both splendid. Denis O'Neill as Manrico and Alan Opie's Count contrasted well. With these two, as with all the voices, the use of a familiar language enabled one to appreciate much more than usual the intensity and characterisation in their singing. The diction throughout was impeccable.

This is a fine set that I thoroughly enjoyed. Any pre-conceptions the listener might hold on the matter of language and text should be ignored here in a recording that Chandos can be proud of. The booklet has the full text in English, with a summary and an article on the historical context of the work, and a synopsis with cueing points.


Harry Downey

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