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Opera’s Greatest Choruses
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Vedi! Le fosche (Anvil Chorus) from Il Trovatore [2:56]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Va’, pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) from Nabucco [4:36]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Regina coeli laetare (Easter Hymn) from Cavalleria Rusticana [6:48]
Dominique Fegan (soprano)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
O welche Lust (Prisoners’ Chorus) from Fidelio [6:42]
Bernard Wheaton (tenor); Sam Hartley (baritone)
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Humming Chorus from Madama Butterfly [3:12]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Treulich geführt (Bridal Chorus) from Lohengrin [4:06]
Ruggero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)
Din, don, suona vespero (Bell Chorus) from Pagliacci [3:05]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Patria oppressa (Chorus of the Scottish Refugees) from Macbeth [5:54]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
O Isis und Osiris, welche Wonne! (Chorus of the Priests) from The Magic Flute [2:33]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
Gira la cote (Turn the grindstone!) from Turandot [2:37]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Gloria all’Egitto (Triumphal March) from Aida [12:11]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov [6:01]
Robert Harrington (tenor)
Opera Queensland Chorus/Richard Lewis
The Queensland Orchestra/Johannes Fritzsch
rec. 11–14 February 2009, ABC Studios, Brisbane.
ABC CLASSICS 476 3489 [62:08]


Experience Classicsonline

The title of the disk says it all – Opera’s Greatest Choruses – a subjective title, and I’m sure we all have our own favourites which are not represented. What we do have is a disk containing many of the usual contenders from the 19th to early 20th century, mainly from Italian operas - the exceptions being two German and one Russian.
The first thing to say is that the chorus is relatively free of the overwhelming vibrato evident with some opera-house choruses. With just over a dozen people per line (55 members in total) they make a good solid sound.
To go quickly through the music on offer, we start with a rousing Anvil chorus – very brashly delivered. This is followed by the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, given with an appropriate downtrodden weariness.
The Mascagni I enjoyed because the choir inside the church does sound like a church choir with the vibrato pared down. However the solo soprano’s vibrato borders on a wobble. All the solo parts are taken by members of the Opera Queensland Chorus. The orchestra play the postlude to this extract which, to my mind, gives it an anticlimax – better to leave it at the end of the final choral outburst ‘Signor’.
The Fidelio Prisoners’ Chorus is well presented by the men. The sopranos and tenor take on the Humming Chorus but it sounds like they are singing to some sort of vowel sound, not humming at all. I understand that this makes it easier - having sung this myself I know how difficult it is - but it robs it of the other-worldly, dreamy sound it should have.
Wagner’s Bridal Chorus is probably the most delicately sung I have heard, and the Bell Chorus from Pagliacci is full of joy - probably the only bit of real joy in this particular opera. This is followed, in contrast, by the Chorus of the Scottish Refugees from Macbeth. This most haunting chorus just misses the absolute desperation which should be felt by these people. Perhaps on stage and in character, it would be there.
The Mozart is played a little faster than I am used to, but it flows better at this pace. We are then thrown into the frenzied chorus from Turandot, where the ensemble slips a little in places, but given the tempo changes in this section it is not surprising.
From China we go to the pomp and ceremony of ancient Egypt in the Triumphal March from Aida. We get a substantial extract which includes the trumpet march and the ballet between the two choruses. This allows us to see how good the orchestra is and they acquit themselves with style and panache.
Finally we get the Coronation Scene from Boris Godunov. A public acclamation of a ruler, but it is in a completely different sound-world from Aida. This is the only item sung in English; the rest are all in their original language. It is a marvellous peroration to Boris, but it lacks the Russian timbre as it is in English. ‘Slava’ has much more impact than the English ‘Glory’. But it rounds off the disk in grand style.
This is a good showcase for this particular group and anyone who knows them will not be disappointed. Anyone who wants a well presented and performed set of opera choruses will find much enjoyment here.
There is an excellent booklet with information on each opera; texts and English translations; and information about the chorus, orchestra and conductor.

Arther Smith



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