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Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Ivanhoe - romantic opera in 3 acts (1890-91) [165:33]
Neal Davies (baritone) - Richard Cœur-de-Lion;
Stephen Gadd (baritone) - Prince John;
James Rutherford (bass-baritone) - Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert;
Peter Wedd (tenor) - Maurice de Bracy;
Peter Rose (bass) - Cedric the Saxon;
Toby Spence (tenor) - Wilfred, Knight of Ivanhoe;
Matthew Brook (bass-baritone) - Friar Tuck;
Leigh Melrose (baritone) - Isaac, the Jew of York;
Andrew Staples (tenor) - Locksley/The Squire;
Janice Watson (soprano) - The Lady Rowena;
Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo) – Ulrica;
Geraldine McGreevy (soprano) – Rebecca;
Knights and Ladies, Attendants, Saxons, Youths - Adrian Partington Singers
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/David Lloyd-Jones
rec. BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales, 24-28 June 2009. DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10578 (3) [3 CDs: 59:01 + 52:08 + 54:24]

 

Experience Classicsonline

 

 

Perhaps it is amazing that we have had to wait so long for the first professional recording of Sullivan’s only grand opera. All the more so wen it played for 155 consecutive performances in 1891 and later went touring with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. The English Opera House was built expressly for it and yet this facet of British heritage has been neglected and largely forgotten until now. We have to thank the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society’s sponsors for making this expensive recording possible and Chandos for taking the initiative to mount such a worthwhile production.
 
The legendary Ivanhoe came to us from the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott in 1819. It was such a great favourite in Victorian times that its appearance in the theatre was certain. There have been two previous amateur recordings on disc (Pearl) and these appeared in 1974 and 1989; the first a live performance by Michael Thomas and a studio one by the Prince Consort. Although the latter gave a better chance of evaluating Sullivan’s score, there were nuances, themes and textures that now shine and provide a different perspective. David Lloyd-Jones must be congratulated for the energetic pace he sets, never rushed but always advancing in a purposeful way. This has made all the difference to the way this kind of recording is perceived.
 
In the first scene, Sturgis the librettist, has to introduce the characters and background before the plot can develop. Consequently the score’s opening section contains much extended recitative that cannot fully reveal Sullivan’s skill as a composer. We are being introduced to motifs which cleverly weave in and out of the work, sometimes later appearing quite subtly. From Act II onwards both the action and music warms up to powerful crescendos that excite the emotions and varied means of expression. Bright brass fanfares give a true air of pageantry.
 
The singers provide a polished performance, sing superbly and support each other admirably. Special mention should be made of Janice Watson with sincerity of portrayal and effortless top notes; Toby Spence with his strength of delivery and powerful presence; and Peter Rose for warmth of tone and clear diction. In Janice and Toby’s Act 1 Scene 2 lyrical duet, the balance is superb. The chorus is fine and adds considerable weight to the opera. What has made all the difference in this recording is the impact that is added by the meaningful phrasing of the vocal lines and absence of bland characterisation. The passages in Act I Scene 1 make more sense in expert hands and one can now understand the effects Sullivan was striving to achieve in his score.
 
Generally, I like the fact that the orchestra is quite forward to allow all layers of orchestration to come across and yet does not unduly mask the singers. However, in the second and third CDs there are times where there seems to be a different balance with the orchestra - more recessed - and sometimes the first and second violins are nearly lost. This said, it does not detract from one’s enjoyment.
 
Two excellent booklet essays by William Parry and Martin Yates unveil the fascinating background of the Victorian English Opera movement and provide an analysis of Sullivan’s score to help give a wider understanding to the music. I notice that a BBC R3 logo is shown, and this cheers me. For too long the establishment has turned its back on the rich scores of 19th century British composers. Ivanhoe should have been a central work to the 2000 Proms when Sullivan’s centenary took place. We owe it to musicians like Sir Charles Mackerras, Ronald Corp and David Lloyd-Jones to remind us of our previous loss in this genre.

When this recording was planned it was to have been conducted by Richard Hickox who sadly died a year before the recording was to take place and to whom it is dedicated. Thankfully, David Lloyd-Jones picked up the baton and has made an excellent job of providing an interpretation that is sure to please the harshest of critics.
 
The English Opera House that premiered Ivanhoe still stands, now the Palace Theatre in Cambridge Circus and owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I was surprised to see neither his name nor that of the Arts Council heading the subscription lists: this is the sort of venture they should surely be promoting.
 

Raymond J Walker

 

 
Complete tracklisting
Ivanhoe (1890-91)
Adapted from Sir Walter Scott's novel A Romantic Opera in Three Acts Words by Julian Sturgis
 
CD 1
Act I
Scene 1. Cedric's Hall at Rotherwood 24:27
1 Introduction - 0:57
2 Cedric: 'Each day this realm of England faints and fails' - 2:35
with Men
3 Isaac: 'Good Thane, most noble Thane, I pray…' - 2:21
with Men, Cedric, Squire
4 Cedric: 'Welcome, Sir Knights!' - 5:17
with de Bracy, Brian, Isaac, Women, Men, Rowena
5 Cedric: 'Drink, drink ye all…' - 3:46
with Men, de Bracy, Brian, Rowena, Ivanhoe
6 Men: 'The Palmer! The holy Palmer!'- 7:27
with Ivanhoe, Cedric, Brian, Rowena, de Bracy
7 De Bracy: 'Is she not fair? And she is rich withal' 2:01
with Brian, Men
Scene 2. An Ante-room in Rotherwood 14:09
8 Rowena: 'O moon, art thou clad in silver mail…' - 4:30
9 Rowena: 'Good Palmer, thou dist speak of one I knew…' - 6:05
with Ivanhoe
10 Ivanhoe: 'Like mountain lark my spirit upward springs' 3:34
with Isaac
Scene 3. The Lists at Ashby 20:09
11 Sopranos: 'Will there be no more fighting?' - 3:52
with Chorus, Friar, King
12 Chorus: 'Plantagenesta!' - 3:06
13 Prince John: 'Isaac, my Jew, my purse of Gold' - 3:07
with Cedric, de Bracy, Rebecca
14 Prince John: ''Tis from our Royal brother, Louis of France' - 3:30
with Heralds, Crowd
15 Sopranos: 'What means his motto?' 6:32
with Crowd, Friar, Locksley, Prince John, Rowena, Cedric
59:01

CD 2
Act II
Scene 1. The Forest, Copmanhurst 19:26
1 King: 'Strange lodging this for England's King' - 5:52
with Friar
2 King: 'There is a custom in the East' - 2:30
with Friar
3 King: 'I ask not wealth nor courtier's praise' - 3:03
4 Friar: 'Not bad, say I, not badly sung!' - 1:12
with King
5 Friar: 'The wind blows cold across the moor' - 3:01
with Outlaws
6 Friar: 'And now for combat! Where's this friend of mine?' 3:45
with King, Lockley, Chorus
Scene 2: A Pasage-way in Torquilstone 9:55
7 Cedric: 'Will not our captor dare to show his face?' - 5:48
with de Bracy, Rowena
8 De Bracy, 'Welcome, Sir Templar! But I may not stay' - 1:07
with Brian
9 Brian: 'Her southern splendour, like the Syrian Moon' 2:59
Scene 3. A Turret-chamber in Torquilstone 22:33
10 Ulrica: 'Whet the keen axes' - 7:26
with Rebecca
11 Rebecca: 'O awful depth below the castle wall!' - 1:06
12 Rebecca: 'Lord of our chosen race' - 3:16
13 Rebecca: 'Take thou these jewels; here is wealth enow…' - 7:55
with Brian
14 Rebeccca: 'What sound is that?' 2:48
with Brian
52:08
 
CD 3
Act III
Scene 1. A Room in Torquilstone 21:04
1 Ivanhoe: 'Happy with winged feet' - 5:33
2 Ulrica: 'Tend thou the Knight thou lovest' - 1:16
with Rebecca
3 Rebecca: 'Ah, would that thou and I might lead our sheep…' - 3:51
with Ivanhoe
4 Ivanhoe: 'But hark! what sound is in mine ear?' - 1:48
with Rebecca
5 Rebecca: 'I see them now; the dark wood moves with bows' - 2:57
with Tenors, Basses, Ivanhoe
6 Ivanhoe: 'How canst thou know what pain it is to lie…' 5:38
with Rebecca, Soldiers, Brian, Outlaws, Ulrica, All
Scene 2. In the Forest 16:50
7 Outlaws: 'Light foot upon the dancing green' - 4:16
with King, Ivanhoe
8 King: 'Maurice de Bracy, faithless knight' - 2:27
with de Bracy
9 King: 'Look, where thy moody father walks apart' - 5:29
with Ivanhoe, Cedric, Rowena
10 Ivanhoe: 'How oft beneath the far-off Syrian Skies…' - 2:29
with Rowena
11 Isaac: 'Knight, Knight of Ivanhoe, I come for thee!' 2:09
with Ivanhoe, Rowena
Scene 3. At Templestowe 16:13
12 Templars: 'Fremuere principes' - 3:06
13 Grand Master: 'Thou Jewish girl, who art condemned to die…' - 4:03
with Rebecca
14 Brian: 'It shall not be' - 2:33
with Grand Master, Rebecca
15 Voices: 'A champion! A champion! A champion!' - 1:51
with Ivanhoe, Chorus, Rebecca, Brian
16 Chorus: 'A judgment! A judgment!' - 2:30
with King, Grand Master, Templars
17 King: 'See where the banner of England floats afar…' 2:09
with Templars, Rebecca, Rowena, Ivanhoe, Cedric, All
54:24
Dedication: To the late Richard Hickox who took the enthusiastic initiative to record Sir Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe and in whose memory this project has now been brought to completion by his friends.

 


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