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O Let Me Weep – Famous Baroque Arias and Scenes
Sound Format: PCM Stereo Picture Format: 4:3 & 16:9 Audio Language: GB (Introduction)
Subtitles: DE, FR DVD 5 / NTSC Running Time: 70 mins FSK: 0 Region Code: 0
ARTHAUS DVD 109238 [70:00]

This comes from a ‘Famous Arias and Scenes’ series devoted to the neophyte, despite its more general appeal to ‘opera lovers and newcomers alike’. There are no booklet notes, merely a track listing which manages to preserve the copyright date but not the actual date of the filmed recordings – though full production credits, to be fair, are included. Each of the four singers is filmed introducing their selections.

The starriest of the quartet is Marilyn Horne, seen in an aria from the San Francisco Opera production of Vivaldi’s Orlando furioso. She looks suitably regal as she describes the aria and we see her on stage in best semaphoric tradition as she unleashes the Act I closer, Sorge l’irato nembo with a bare minimum of actorly chops. As Ruggero, Jeffrey Gall wanders around looking disconsolate, without anything to sing. Next is David Daniels with his famous impersonation of three arias from Rinaldo. This is the David Alden-directed Munich production which was conducted by Harry Bicket and directed for TV by the ubiquitous Brian Large. He indulges in some none-too-convincing furniture throwing in the B section of Cara sposa, but that’s the director’s fault, not his. Daniels goes into some detail about his own life and the use of chest voice and training in his spoken introductions. He’s always interesting to listen to.

Yvonne Kenny is heard in two separate works. Her aria from Giulio Cesare is from the Australian Opera production conducted by Richard Hickox. She is very formal when direct-to-camera, working from a script unlike Daniels who is more informal but also prone to run out of steam, conversationally speaking. She makes the point that Purcell’s O let me weep from The Fairy Queen - Nicholas Kok directing the orchestra of English National Opera - is tricky to put across. She does so with great skill. Finally, there is Ann Murray. We also have the bonus of seeing Valerie Masterson (acting but not singing unfortunately) in Xerxes, again from ENO but this time in the famous production directed by Nicholas Hytner and conducted by Charles Mackerras. Murray also works from the script in her introductions though that for the Ariodante aria comes from a different time period from the performance. The aria ends abruptly but at least one can hear how deftly Ivor Bolton brings out wind detailing from the ENO orchestra.

If you navigate straight through you’ll be faced with introduction, aria and then full credit details, which can be more than a little wearisome. Judicious navigation is required. But is there any longer any market for a 70-minute Baroque operatic bits-and-pieces compilation of this kind?

Jonathan Woolf

VIVALDI Orlando furioso: Sorge l’irato nembo
Marilyn Horne (mezzo soprano)/San Francisco Opera Orchestra/Randall Behr
HANDEL Rinaldo: Cara sposa/ Cor ingrate and Venti turbini
David Daniels (counter tenor)/ Harry Bickett
HANDEL Giulio Cesare: Piangeṛ la sorte mia
Yvonne Kenny (soprano)/Australian Opera/Richard Hickox
PURCELL The Fairy Queen O let me weep
Yvonne Kenny (soprano)/English National Opera Orchestra/ Nicholas Kok
HANDEL Xerxes: If you worship the man who has spurned you
Ann Murray (mezzo soprano)/ English National Opera Orchestra/Charles Mackerras
HANDEL Ariodante: Take your pleasure
Ann Murray (mezzo soprano)/ English National Opera Orchestra/Ivor Bolton



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