Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842–1900) & Sir
William S. GILBERT (1836–1911) The Mikado (1885) [90.48]
The Mikado – Owen
Nanki-Poo – Richard Lewis (tenor)
Ko-Ko – Sir Geraint Evans (baritone)
Pooh-Bah – Ian Wallace (baritone)
Pish-Tush – John Cameron (baritone)
Yum-Yom – Elsie Morison (soprano)
Pitti-Sing – Marjorie Thomas (contralto)
Peep-Bo – Jeannette Sinclair (soprano)
Katisha – Monica Sinclair (contralto)
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
Pro Arte Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent
rec. No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London, 5-6 May, 15 June,
3 August 1956. ADD CLASSICS
FOR PLEASURE 2134442 [54.26 + 36.22]
was my first recording of The Mikado; bought
in the 1970s. I was attracted by the operatic nature of
the cast. Even now, one of the recording’s virtues is the
fine array of voices which were assembled. The conductor,
Malcolm Sargent, had a distinguished history as a conductor
of Gilbert and Sullivan, having worked with the D’Oyly
Carte company in the 1920s. He also recorded some of the
operas with them at that time. He returned to the Savoy
Operas in the 1950s when he recorded nine of them for EMI,
all with singers from opera and oratorio rather than the
D’Oyly Carte roots. Sargent also recorded Yeomen of
the Guard and Princess Ida in the 1960s with
the D’Oyly Carte people for Decca, with Elizabeth Harwood
in the soprano parts.
with other operas in the series, the cast consists of seasoned
opera professionals rather than G&S specialists. This
we get good voices and secure musical performances, but
not everyone will be entirely happy with the results. It
helps that the recording was able to take advantage of
the superbly crisp diction prevalent among English singers
during the 1950s.
to the performance are the trio of baritones, Sir Geraint
Evans (Ko-Ko), Ian Wallace (Pooh-Bah) and John Cameron
(Pish-Tush). These three provide strong performances, fine
musical values and good characterisation so that you are
rarely confused as to who is singing. Evans’s Ko-Ko is
well sung but sounds a little too nice, a little to refined
whereas surely Ko-Ko is the antithesis of this. By contrast
Ian Wallace embodies his character completely, adding to
the characterisation with his distinctively rotund voice;
Wallace’s Poo-Bah sounds fat and self-important.
1 places the young couple in the spot-light. Richard Lewis
is beautifully lyrical as Nanki-Poo, singing his opening
ballad with a nice feeling for the shape of Sullivan’s
melodic line. He does, though, sound a little semi-detached
from the drama though his performance is finely musical.
my mind, Elsie Morison’s voice sounds a little to fluttery
and soft-edged for Yum-Yum. She works well in tandem with
Marjorie Thomas’s Pitti-Sing and Jeanette Sinclair’s Peep-Bo.
perk up considerably in Act 2 when Owen Brannigan and Monica
Sinclair appear as the Mikado and Katisha. Brannigan and
Sinclair really do sound as if they are appearing in a
dramatic production and both characterise superbly with
their voices; their opening duet is one of the highlights
of the disc.
would never mistake this disc for a recording arising out
of live performances but musical values are high. The opera-house
voices are well supported by the Glyndebourne Festival
Chorus and the Pro Arte Orchestra. Sargent favours steady
speeds but paces the opera well.
this performance has been overtaken by other recordings.
Frustratingly, none of the major sets seem to have recorded
the opera complete with spoken dialogue. Probably the most
recommendable recording would be Sir Charles Mackerras’s
fine account, though this trims the opera slightly to fit
on 1 disc, dropping the overture and some repeats. Even
though the overture is not by Sullivan it is a loss and
might make people think twice.
has its drawbacks but this remains a disc that I would
want on my shelves. Its charm lies in its strongly operatic
cast who provide superb diction, high musical values and
a wonderful opportunity to hear some fine English singers
letting their hair down a little.
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