Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Bruce Graham, David Blackwood, George McHollan|
Arthur Sullivan: Ivanhoe
Listen to Samples
Wonderfully fine performance
BDSinC | Calgary, Alberta, Canada | 10/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one opera I have been searching for for a very long time. I read about it in a book about Sullivan. Of course, when they wrote of the opera, they showed the scene, in drawing, where Rebecca informs Ivanhoe of the battle with the Black Knight. The drawing (based on the actual performance when it premiered) grabbed my attention completely. I just wondered what this composer could do with real opera (I loved his operettas completely, and they showed quite often Sullivan was quite capable of deep emotional pathose, even if in the end he was spoofing it more than reflecting it).
Well, all the years of searching and waiting to know were not a waste. Firstly, I have never been able to locate a score of this work (as I have done with many ancient operas or forgotten ones), so I was just as in the dark as anyone else as to what to expect. I was incredibly surprised, not to mention, thrilled with the results. No, Sullivan is no Wagner, nor is he even Verdi, but he is wonderfully beautiful in his own right. Why this work has not entered into the opera houses, I have no clue, excepting maybe because it is English opera, which never does well. Speaking of "ENGLISH OPERA", here we have a recording where for the most part we CAN understand the words (a thing I never seem to find in professional recordings of English opera, or American opera; they may as well sing in gibberish, for that is exactly what it sounds like -- perhaps the composers have no clue what works in their own language?). The performers, as we know, are not professionals, but rather semi-professionals. There are some uneven performances, and sometimes the characters are not quite as developed as one would like, there are even times the orchestra sounds like it lost the beat (but this is EXTREMELY RARE), the sound quality of the recording is OK, but nothing stellar, however, it is not bad either. Yet, in spite of these drawbacks, we CAN and DO understand the words, and for once a rather strange sounding English libretto sounds natural and unforced with stupid poetry that really leaves you laughing. These wonderfully dedicated performers, no matter their individual difficulties, give us a wonderfully vivid performance where we can finally understand the opera (like all our Italian friends do when Italian opera is sung for them). That was such a treat for me, to finally actually understand the words of opera sung in my own language.
What makes this opera such a thrill, at least for me, is the natural fall of the words and the music, especially in the recitatives. Unlike most English opera where the musical line sounds completely foreign to the natural lilt of the words, Sullivan has an uncanny way of writing lines, melodies, and recitatives that flow naturally from the language itself. That was a really exciting experience to endure. For once, I didn't wish that someone would teach the composers to listen to the flow of English to gain an insight into melody. Maybe it was all those operettas that he wrote prior to this "serios opera" that taught him what he knew, or maybe, he just had a good ear for his own language and enough sense to know that trying to graft Italian or German musical idioms onto things just wasn't the correct choice.
Is it a great work? Well, no, it will never get into the record books as a perfect opera, nor will it shove Mozart or Wagner off the stage, but it is really quite good just the same. Even with all the flaws this recording has, I am so glad it is out there so I could at last hear what music fleshed out that old drawing I saw in a book all those years ago. Though Sullivan's music is not anywhere near as dramatic as one may imagine it should be, it fits well with the scene and the over all concept of the work.
I really recommend this recording, for it, at least for now, is the only one we have (and if they make a professional one, I really hope they screen the singers well, no big names if they can't sing English so we can understand it; Sullivan, as with Wagner, you MUST understand the words or the meaning is completely lost). The entire recording is really quite enjoyable, and it doesn't disappoint."
Not ideal, but all there is
King Gama | Seattle, WA USA | 08/04/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you are interested in Arthur Sullivan's Music without Gilbert, this is one of the works you should have in your collection. Unfortunately the quality of the performance is inconsistent. The orchestra is at times good, at others sloppy. The soloists are also of varying quality. This is, after all, a recording by a semi-professional group. That said, if you are willing to accept the flaws, this is currently the only version on disc. Perhaps someday the BBC will record a version, as they did with Sullivan's "Rose of Persia". In the current recording, the most pleasing selections are: The Act 3 Scene 2 ensemble "Look where thy moody father walks apart", Friar Tuck's rollicking "Ho, Jolly Jenkin", The Templar's passionate scene "Woo thou thy snowflake", and Rebecca's evocative aria "Lord of our chosen race". Not all it could be, but it's all we've got."