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Gilbert & Sullivan: Princess Ida
Arthur Sullivan, Malcolm Sargent, Charles Mackerras
Gilbert & Sullivan: Princess Ida
Genres: World Music, Classical
 

      
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CD Reviews

Not as Bad as Many Claim
Aronne | 09/13/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"If Decca had left Princess Ida without a filler, I may have given it four stars, but on account of the fabulous filler, Pineapple Poll, this is definitely a five star product.

Generally, the biggest complaint about this 1965 performance is Sargent's slow tempi. I agree. But, there is a remedy. An open source program called Audacity may be used to speed up recordings without distorting the sound or making all the singers sound like Smurfs. It gives one satisfaction to change the dirge-like "The woman of the wisest wit" to its proper speed.

The most controversial singer is Elizabeth Harwood as Princess Ida. She was never a part of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, and often gets flack for having never performed the role on stage. In reality, however, her performance isn't bad at all. The singer who normally performed the role was Ann Hood (who recorded Psyche), though I cannot imagine her doing any better than Harwood.

The only thing that might have been better would have been Valerie Masterson, the normal Psyche, taking Ida, but alas, she was demoted to Melissa for this recording, pushing the normal Melissa, Pauline Wales, out completely. (A pity too, Ms. Wales had a fine voice.) Still, as a consolation, we are left with the best "Death to the invader" ever. Masterson sings the solo deliciously and hops up to a high C at the end.

The rest of the cast is pretty good to excellent. Phillip Potter is probably the best of the lot. John Reed gives an acerbic King Gama, Kenneth Sandford gives a pretty good Hildebrand, and Donald Adams' a resounding Arac. I'm not a fan of David Palmer, who makes a bit too much effort to get up to his high notes, but he is balanced by Potter's Hilarion and Jeffery Skitch's Florian (the second time he recorded the role, and the last time he recorded any role with the company).

The sound given to Ida is perhaps the best of the stereo D'Oyly Carte series. The chorus in Hildebrand's first song is almost magic (for lack of a better word).

Princess Ida deserves four stars, but the bonus on the second CD, deserves at least five. Pineapple Poll is a ballet arranged by Charles Mackerras (who conducts it himself) from various Gilbert and Sullivan tunes from all the operas except Utopia Limited and The Grand Duke. From the first moment to the end, Mackerras skill in arranging makes the ballet a complete delight. I don't want to say too much, for it is wonderful to listen to fresh. The sound is digital.

Overall, this a good album for any serious G&S fan to investigate. It is one of the few entries we have in the in the Princess Ida discography, to treasure always."