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Richard Bonynge: The Opera Collection - Volumes 1 & 2
Soloists and orchestras conducted by Richard Bonynge
rec. various dates and venues
ABC CLASSICS 481 1873 [4 CDs: 72.40 + 73.03 + 65.28 + 72.16]

Born in 1930 Richard Bonynge CBE, AC, studied piano at the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney with Lindley Evans, a sometime accompanist of the great Australian singer Dame Nellie Melba. He continued his studies at London’s Royal College of Music where he also added classes in conducting. He developed a serious interest in vocal technique and served as pianist to Joan Sutherland. Their relationship developed into marriage in 1954. Around this time Bonynge also began a serious study of the bel canto period operas, many, at that time, obscure.

Bonynge debuted on the professional podium in 1962 and followed up with regular appearances with his wife. Her career was in stratospheric ascent after performances in Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden in February 1959. Having quickly signed her up Decca, aware of her husband’s knowledge of the repertoire and his capacities as a vocal coach, later cast the duo in a series of opera recordings with him on the rostrum. This was a career path that lasted well into the 1980s. The ensuing series of recordings used his musicological research, along with her vocal strengths, to bring several operatic masterpieces out of long neglect. The resulting seminal recordings significantly extended the recorded operatic repertoire.

Proud Australians, Bonynge and Sutherland, as well as appearing in the world’s greatest opera houses also kept contact with the country of their birth. They returned regularly to perform as well as helping to facilitate the establishment and survival of various opera companies in the country of their birth. These often provided opportunities for fellow countrymen and women to build world careers. Nevertheless some considerable singers never wished to take the international stage, preferring to remain in the country of their birth. These included Nance Grant (review and review whose autobiography is published here. Many other singers, including some of those featured in the present ABC Classics collection mixed the wider realms of Europe and America with regular return visits to their own country. A constant was the frequent presence of Richard Bonynge in Australia. Increasingly aware of his reputation, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation recorded performances under his baton with many of these singers as well as with his wife (review).

Highlights of this diverse collection include the delightful way Bonynge supports his Figaro (CD 1 trs 1-3), a singer unknown to me but possessing pleasing vocal characteristics and capacity for characterisation. The whole of the French and Italian collection (CD 2) indicates Bonynge’s diverse repertoire with several of the works featured very seldom staged. I particularly enjoyed the extracts from Delibes’ Lakmé (trs. 7-12) with New Zealander Heather Begg making a sonorous contribution in the Flower Duet and elsewhere. The Viennese Operetta collection (CD 3) is a delight under Bonynge with Yvonne Kenny making an outstanding contribution in music extending from Johann Strauss II to the likes of Abraham, Novello and Kreisler a century later. Her Vilja lied (tr. 11) is beautifully paced - an interpretation of the highest order. A particular pleasure in the inclusion of The Nun’s Chorus from Casanova, not heard often enough in the UK since the demise of the BBC programme Your Hundred Best Tunes over a decade ago; the sonorous organ adds greatly to the enjoyment. Handel (CD 4) represents the baroque period with Bonynge conducting an appropriately lighter, but not period, orchestra and singers not often heard in the UK.

Some of the recordings featured in this collection have had previous circulation in Australia whilst in some stated instances they appear on record in this collection for the first time (CD2). All I can say is that the whole gave me immense pleasure for both the variety of the repertoire as well as the artistry of the singers concerned. Singers I have talked to who have worked with Bonynge always stress his overriding capacity to let them phrase and create their assigned role within their natural capacity. This is a skill often lacking in conductors, particularly those who after a long period on the concert platform decide they fancy the opera-house pit for a change. Stiffness of beat and a lack of awareness of the need to inhale vast volumes of air to hold a note or sculpt a phrase are often evident. These are just the skills that Bonynge exhibits in this collection. He is not afraid to give weight to music as is evident in his treatment of the orchestral contributions or the support of the choir in the second part of the Mozart collection (CD 1 trs. 13 and 15) for example, but never at the expense of his soloists as is evident throughout this collection.

Bonynge continues to explore the byways of the operatic genre as illustrated by his willingness to create performing editions for Victorian Opera of the likes of Wallace’s Lurline (review) and the recording to be issued by Naxos early next year of Balfe’s Satanella (8.660378-79).
Robert J Farr

Detailed List of Contents

CD 1 [72.40]
Opera Arias
The Marriage of Figaro
Isobel Buchanan (soprano), John Pringle (baritone)
Queensland Symphony Orchestra. rec. 1978
1. Non più andrai
2. Crudel! Perchè finora
3. Vedrò mentr’io sospiro
4. Dove sono i bei momenti
Così Fan Tutte
5. Come scoglio
6. Donne mie, la fate a tanti
Don Giovanni
7. Là ci darem la mano
8. Batti, batti, o bel Masetto
9. Vedrai, carino
The Magic Flute
Isobel Buchanan, John Pringle
10. Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen
11. Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden
12. Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena
The Magic Flute (sung in English)
Deborah Riedel (soprano), Michael Martin, Roger Lemke, Stephen Bennett (trebles)
The Opera Australia Chorus, Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra. rec. 1991
13. Overture
14. Hm Hm Hm Hm!
15. O Isis and Osiris
16. So Will We Never Meet Again?
17. Now, Marching Down the Road of Morning

CD 2 [73.03]
Highlights from French and Italian Opera
Angela Denning (soprano), Glenys Fowles (soprano), Heather Begg (mezzo), Anson Austin (tenor)
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. rec. 1980 (first CD release)
1. ADAM from Les Pantins de Violette
Canari, mon chéri
2. DONIZETTI Dom Sébastien
Grand Dieu… Sa misère est si grande
3. AUBER Le Serment / Fra Diavolo
Dès l’enfance
4. OFFENBACH The Tales of Hoffmann
5. DONIZETTI La Favorite
O mon Fernand
6. AUBER L’Ambassadrice
Buvons tous au Sultan Misapouf
7–10. DELIBES Selections from Lakmé
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. rec. 1988
Joan Sutherland
11–12. BELLINI I puritani
Quì la voce...Vien, diletto
13. THOMAS Hamlet
À vos jeux, mes amis

CD 3 [65.28]
Viennese Operetta
1 Yvonne Kenny (soprano)
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. rec. 2008
J. STRAUSS II Wiener Blut
Grüss dich Gott (Entrance of the Countess)
2. ZELLER Der Vogelhändler
Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tirol (Roses from Tyrol)
3. SIECZYNSKI Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume (Vienna, City of my Dreams)
4. KÁLMÁN The Gypsy Princess
Heia, Heia (Entrance Song)
5. ZELLER Der Obersteiger
Sei nicht bös (Don’t Be Cross)
6. LEHÁR Der Zarewitsch
Einer wird kommen (Someone Will Come)
7. J. STRAUSS II Casanova
The Nuns’ Chorus
8. STOLZ White Horse Inn
Mein Liebeslied muss ein Walzer sein (My Love Song Must Be a Waltz)
9. HEUBERGER The Opera Ball
Im Chambre séparée (A Private Room)
10. Giuditta
Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiss (My Lips Kiss So Hotly)
11–12. The Merry Widow
Vilja / Love Unspoken
13. Zigeunerliebe
Hör’ ich Cymbalklänge (When I Hear the Sound of the Cimbalom)
14. KREISLER Stars in My Eyes
15. ABRAHAM Ball im Savoy
Toujours l’amour (All for Love)
16. King’s Rhapsody
Some Day My Heart Will Awake
17. The Dancing Years
My Dearest Dear
18. ABRAHAM Victoria and Her Hussar
Good Night

CD 4 [72.16]
Rodelinda, Regina de’ Longobardi (Rodelinda, Queen of Lombardy), selections (trs. 1-23)
Valda Wilson, Lorino Gore (sopranos), Fiona James, Liane Keegan (mezzo), John Lang Muir (tenor)
Sydney Lyric Orchestra. rec. live, 2012



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