Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Giuseppe VERDI (1813 - 1901)
An Introduction to La Traviata (musical excerpts with spoken guide)
Thomson Smillie, writer.
David Timson, narrator.
Featuring musical examples from Naxos 8.660011-12 (Monika Krause/Yordy Ramiro/Georg Tichy/Slovak Philharmonic Choir/Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Alexander Rahbari)
NAXOS 8.558050 [65.23]


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This disc, part audiobook, part highlights CD, takes its place in Naxos's continuing ‘Opera Explained’ series. Again it is written by Thomson Smillie and narrated by David Timson, the latter being most familiar to this writer for his similar role on the same company's (excellent) complete recording of the English version of Stravinsky's A Soldier's Tale.

As with the Puccini issue, reviewed earlier, this is an informative and entertaining undertaking but, as I also remarked about that disc, its enduring value is more likely to be as a library item. It is of a great deal more use to the student of music than to the established opera buff. The latter is not only likely be more than familiar with the opera and its main foci, but will also no doubt have various recorded versions to compare and contrast. The examples on this disc, presented act by act, are again taken from the full Naxos recording, under Alexander Rahbari. When released, that set drew praise mainly for the quality of the performance of one soloist in particular, the soprano Monica Krause in the central Violetta role. This is something clearly evident from the excerpts, as is the general view that other elements can seem underpowered. As no-one is likely, knowingly, to buy this purely as a highlights CD, both the positive and negative points raised here are not really that important anyway. As with the Puccini disc (and I presume others in this series), narration and excerpts are not cued separately. To be fair to its producers, the flow of the programme would probably not be so seamless if this were the case. This ‘Opera Explained’ project forms part of Naxos's educational initiative and aims, and in my view succeeds, in enlightening the listener. As a general listening experience it is more a one-off or occasional item but, given the low price, and high overall quality of the package (the booklet synopsis is particularly good), it deserves to sell more than a handful of copies. Libraries and educational establishments certainly ought to consider its purchase.

Neil Horner

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