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CD: Crotchet

Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Love was a dream

Schön ist die Welt
“ Just believe it’s true” [2:56]
The Merry Widow (1905) - “Vilia” [5:01]
“Love unspoken” [3:21]
Paganini (1925) - “Girls were made to love and kiss” [3:07]
“Beautiful Italy” [2:05]
Frederica (1928) - “Oh maiden, my maiden” [3:51]
The Land of Smiles (1929) - “You are my heart’s delight” [3:31]
“Patiently smiling” [4:41]
“Beneath the window” [3:48]
Giuditta (1935) “Love was a dream” [3:57]
“Friends, this is the life for me!” [3:05]
Frasquita (1922) “Farewell my love, farewell” [3:52]
Alfie Boe (tenor)
The Orchestra of Scottish Opera/Michael Rosewell
rec. Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 17, 21 May 2009
English texts included
LINN CKD346 [44:00]

Experience Classicsonline

When the Sadler’s Wells Opera, as it then was, produced “The Merry Widow” in 1958 with June Bronhill and Thomas Round it had a big success on its hands, just as there had been when the operetta was first performed in London in 1907. In both cases it was sung in English, and even if this did change the nature of the work to some degree towards Edwardian musical comedy or Gilbert and Sullivan the ability of the audience to understand what was being sung was surely a crucial factor in its success. There is no point in singing in English if the words are not articulated clearly. Here it must be admitted that some of Chandos’s otherwise admirable Opera in English series have been let down by singers unable to take proper advantage of the vernacular to communicate with the audience. That is not a charge that can be levelled at the present disc. Although very properly Linn do include the texts in the booklet this is unnecessary as Alfie Boe sings them with complete clarity and apparent sincerity. Given what might charitably be described as the period quality of some of the translations this is no mean feat but it does add greatly to the listener’s pleasure.

And pleasure there is to be had here in abundance. Despite the efforts of marketing men to portray him as yet another so-called “opera singer” with neither the talent nor the experience to perform operatic roles, Alfie Boe does have plenty of experience and all the necessary qualities to extract the maximum of charm from this music. He may not be Tauber - but who is - and not everyone will take to his vibrato when singing full out, but he does recognise the individuality of each of the items on the disc. Listening to a collection such as this might seem like too much of a good thing but the order - not that above - is cunningly devised to maximise the contrast between items. Although I would not necessarily recommend that you do the same, I was never bored when listening to it right through.

Not everything is perfect. A chorus is sadly missed in “Vilia”, and despite the special pleading in the booklet that it was performed that way in 1928 I cannot see any real justification for this being sung by a tenor. Bearing in mind that Boe’s normal role in “The Merry Widow” is as Camille de Rosillon it would have been better to have included some of his music. As my other complaint is about the very short measure there would have been more than enough time to have included both.

But enough of complaining. For the most part this is a well produced and well presented issue, with the Scottish Opera Orchestra responding idiomatically and a clear and well balanced recording. This is a very enjoyable disc which I hope will be followed by similar collections of tenor songs by Sullivan, Strauss and other composers of operetta. It would have been wonderful to have such collections from Thomas Round or John Brecknock but the opportunity was missed. I hope that next time it will not be.

John Sheppard 



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