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Gerald Finley - Great Operatic Arias
Gerald Finley (baritone); Lucy Crowe (soprano); Deborah Miles-Johnson (mezzo), Emma Brain-Gabbott (soprano), Kathryn Jenkin (soprano); Anne-Marie Gibbons (mezzo); Matthew Long (tenor); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner rec. Blackheath Halls, London 13-16 April 2009

Sung texts enclosed
CHANDOS CHAN 3167 [68:41]

Experience Classicsonline

Born in Canada fifty years ago Gerald Finley has enjoyed a career on both sides of the Atlantic. Mozart has played an important part for him but he has also ventured into contemporary repertoire, and two roles that he created are also represented on this recital, making it a bit more than the usual run-through of a dozen standard arias. Moreover he chose several other rarities to show off his versatility. The aria from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta isn’t everyday fare, nor is – even less in fact – Lysiart’s aria from Weber’s Euryanthe. These two items bring the recital off to a successful start; the former intense with highly strung Slavonic sentiment, the latter powerful but also meltingly beautiful. This testing aria is sung with clean attack and admirably assured runs. I admired Tom Krause in the recent reissue of the, as far as I know, only available complete recording of the work, and Finley runs him close. It’s a pity Euryanthe is so notoriously difficult to stage, due to a more or less impossible libretto, since it is filled with inspired music.

In Doctor Atomic we recognize John Adams’ very personal rhythmic minimalism, well known from Nixon in China but more varied here. The opera was premiered in 2005 with Gerald Finley singing the central character Oppenheimer. Sometimes labelled as bass-baritone he has an easy top register, where the lyrical beauty of tone is rather reminiscent of Thomas Hampson.

He sings Iago’s Credo with face and conviction, and with such warmth that one feels the character is just perplexed at his own evil. Wolfram’s two songs from Tannhäuser are warm and lyrical, Finley lightening his voice – but expressive and keen with words. The well known Song to the evening star is beautiful and restrained – not just another showpiece.

He is a seductive though initially rather aggressive Don Giovanni and Lucy Crowe is an excellent Zerlina. The jump to Mark-Anthony Turnage The Silver Tassie is long, in time as well as in style, and this is another of his creator’s records. Fascinating music and glorious singing. So is, by and large, the Toreador song from Carmen, where his marrowy low notes reveal a healthy bass register. Rhythms are springy but the part seems to stretch his voice to the limits – or maybe he is just over-acting.

I wouldn’t have thought him a natural Hans Sachs but he manages surprisingly well with Verachtet mir die Meister nicht, as it is known in the original. His diction is excellent and it is well sung but one ideally wants a darker timbre. Here as well as in the Carmen aria the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir are really splendid.

The aria from Linda di Chamounix is another rarity, where my benchmark reading is that by Renato Bruson. Finley sings it very well but lacks the roundness of tone and seamless legato of his predecessor. Anne-Marie Gibbons assists him well. Scarpia in Finley’s impersonation is not the snarling animal of certain readings but a more civilized nobleman with understatement – just as horrifying, in fact. The concluding lollipop Some enchanted evening, comes as a striking contrast to Puccini’s Chief of Police and here he challenges even Bryn Terfel with a lovely final pianissimo.

Edward Gardner, since 2007 Music Director of the ENO, has had a lot of rave reviews lately, and he lives up to his reputation. As always with these Chandos issues production values are high: excellent sound, a fine essay by John Steane – personal in expression and deeply knowledgeable – artists’ profiles and session photos. In short: another highly desirable issue in this ever-growing series Opera in English – a joint venture with the Peter Moores Foundation.

Göran Forsling

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
1. Robert’s aria ‘My only beloved Mathilde I claim’ [2:14]
Carl Maria von WEBER (1786 – 1826)
2. Lysiart’s aria (So weih’ ich mich den Rach gewalten)’What refuge here?’ [8:39]
John ADAMS (b. 1947)
Doctor Atomic
3. Oppenheimer’s solo ‘Batter my heart’ [7:40]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
4. Iago’s aria (Credo in un Dio crudel) ‘Take it: take the path to your ruin … Yes, I believe in God who has created me’ [5:07]
Richard WAGNER (1813 – 1883)
5. Wolfram’s aria (Blick ich umher) ‘Turning my gaze upon this proud assembly’ [5:21]
6. Wolfram’s aria: Which dark foreboding twilight casts her shadow … Look down, oh gentle evening star’ [5:25]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Don Giovanni
7. Don Giovanni and Zerlina’s duet (La ci darem la mano) ‘Come on, we’re wasting time … There will my arms enfold you’ [3:46]
Mark-Anthony TURNAGE(b. 1960)
The Silver Tassie
8. Harry’s song ‘Oh bring to me a pint of wine’ [3:37]
Georges BIZET (1838 – 1875)
9. Escamillo’s couplets ‘You’re most kind, and in return I toast you … Toreador, be ready!’ [5:02]
Richard WAGNER
The Mastersingers of Nuremberg
10. Sachs’ aria (Verachtet mir die Meister nicht) ‘Do not disdain our Masters thus’[6:48]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797 – 1848)
Linda of Chamounix
11. Antonio’s aria (Ambo nati in questa valle) ’In this valley we shared our childhood’ [5:05]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
12. Te Deum ‘Three agents, quick as you can now’ [4:47]
Richard RODGERS (1902 – 1979)
South Pacific
13. Some enchanted evening [3:40]
Gerald Finley (baritone); Lucy Crowe (soprano) (7); Deborah Miles-Johnson (mezzo), Emma Brain-Gabbott (soprano), Kathryn Jenkin (soprano) (9); Anne-Marie Gibbons (mezzo) (11); Matthew Long (tenor) (12); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir (9, 10, 12)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner
rec. Blackheath Halls, London 13-16 April 2009
CHANDOS CHAN 3167 [68:41]

Another highly desirable issue in the ever-growing Opera in English series… see Full Review


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