This delightful work has finally been rescued from the realms of relative
obscurity by the usually enterprising Hyperion label. Obviously, Jones' work
is highly reminiscent of Sullivan's 'Mikado' but the tunes and structural
layout of this operetta (or drama) are markedly different. Indeed Andrew
Lamb muses on the incidental beauties that permeate such exquisite numbers
as 'Star of my Soul' or the famous 'Kissing Duet' which show Jones in his
best and most inspired light. However I would not agree that 'The Geisha'
should be placed alongside, say, 'German's 'Merrie England' or 'Tom Jones',
both those works are vastly superiour in their inspired melodic content that
'Geisha' could not really hope to match.
It is also quite justly fitting that Ronald Corp and his delectable orchestra
were to add this admirable recording to their discography after the impeccable
treasures that were a constant delight in their four CD's devoted expressly
to all sorts of light music. From the very opening chorus, one senses that
the utmost care and affection is to be lavished on the music. Lillian Watson's
trenchant soprano solos are a constant delight whilst Maltman's penchant
for British music is wholly apparent in the way he sings these bawdy old
ballads. Indeed I would argue that Roy Henderson has been born again in the
guise of Maltman.
I must confess that after a few hearings, I was not entirely convinced why
the work had over seven hundred consecutive performances before disappearing
into obscurity but the music is delightfully tuneful throughout. Some numbers
stick in the head but not one of them is longer than three minutes with the
finale taking a mere one minute to be rounded off. Of course, 'The Geisha'
is a typical Oriental story rather in the likes of 'The Mikado' although
as Lamb tells us, Jones' treatment is quite entirely different. My particular
favourites are the energetic and spirited choruses, revealing the best British
traditions in those days, especially the one dedicated to choral singing.
Hyperion's striking booklet cover is almost a work of art in its own right
and they have found space for some charming and rather exquisite figurines
at the corner of each page, probably just to add to the flavour and spice
of the Oriental proceedings. Corp's direction and conducting is quite exemplary,
in some numbers he is controversially slow but he is also brisk and cheerful
when the need arises.
The recording is exemplary in its full rounded nature and the perfect sense
of balance between soloists, chorus and orchestra. It is also quite intriguing
to read Andrew Lamb's highly entertaining notes encompassing Sidney Jones'
life work, surely a rare bird to most music lovers of today. Although definitely
not a musical masterpiece, 'The Geisha' deserves a good honest recording
and that is exactly what it gets here.