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Gilbert & Sullivan: The Yeoman of the Guard & Trial by Jury
Arthur Sullivan, Isidore Godfrey, Malcolm Sargent
Gilbert & Sullivan: The Yeoman of the Guard & Trial by Jury
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (13) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (18) - Disc #2


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Two operas performed with no weak link in the casts - and ce
Aronne | 08/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Yeomen of the Guard competes closely with Princess Ida as being the most operatic of Gilbert and Sullivan's works. Although the three most popular G&S operas are HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, and The Mikado, the three of the greatest quality musically would be Iolanthe, Yeomen of the Guard, and one other - perhaps Ruddigore. All of the operas are wonderful, each with its own different flavor. Yeomen is the saddest of them all, though it is not truly a tragic opera (this is more apparent in the dialogue). Anyway, on to the actual recording.

First of all, John Reed is NOT miscast as Jack Point. He is a perfect Point. I only wish this recording included dialogue, but Sargent was not wont to do such a thing, and never did throughout his long and distinguished career (to my knowledge). Reed's display of emotion does not overdo the drama nor underplay it. Really, Point is the role most fitted to Reed. Point or Ko-Ko (but that's another story). The other principles also do very well. Donald Adams is in good form as usual, though he does not have too much to do in this opera as Sergeant Meryll. Philip Potter is an outstanding Colonel Fairfax, a tenor of the highest order. Elizabeth Harwood as Elsie, Ann Hood as Phoebe Meryll, and Gillian Knight as Dame Carruthers all sing finely. Kenneth Sanford makes a perfect Wilfred Shadbolt, demonstrating the roughness of a jailor without singing like one. The recorded sound is kind to all their voices, as it is to the choral singing, which is also outstanding.

The worst thing about this recording is the lack of dialogue, but regardless a libretto can be downloaded from The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive and read between numbers (it helps, believe me). There is currently no alternative with dialogue, excepting Sir Neville Marriner's recording with heavily abridged dialogue and the 1982 Brent Walker/Opera World video, which excludes six numbers on account of time restraints. (As a side note, the present performance includes a song for Dame Carruthers and Sergeant Meryll, "Rapture, rapture," that is often omitted.)

I have not mentioned the filler as of yet. Trial by Jury is a delightful work well up to the standards of later operas in many ways. Often you may read that a recording includes "Trial by Jury, without dialogue." This is something of a misnomer, since Trial by Jury is the only of the G&S operas not to have any dialogue whatsoever. It is all words set to music.

The cast for this work is just as strong as for Yeomen of the Guard. Thomas Round makes himself the perfect Defendant. Though only he and Anthony Raffell would actually perform this work on tour when this recording was made, this performance includes many of the big names from the D'Oyly Carte opera company of those days. John Reed makes a fine learned judge; Kenneth Sandford (as the Counsel for the Plaintiff) and Donald Adams (as The Usher) fill their roles in a similarly convincing manner. The only female principle is the Plaintiff, and Ann Hood adapts as well to this role as she did to Phoebe Meryll (though her sobs after the Cousel's song is a bit contrived). Isidore Godfrey conducts this work, and does it very, very well. The music glows, making this one of the best Trial by Jury's available.

Overall, this recording fully deserves five stars. As in all the Decca recordings of this series, a synopsis for both works is included. If you like any of the other Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, you will most certainly like The Yeomen of the Guard and Trial by Jury.
A Terrific Recording With One Rather Weak Link
Theseus | US of A | 03/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"*Yeoman* is a brilliant, moving, and uneven piece of work. Gilbert & Sullivan extended themselves into rather serious territory in this operetta and much of their work is stirring, executed with considerable art and craft. Often Yeoman is, well, grand. And their are suprises: is she singing a song about people being tortured? how did Sullivan manage to differentiate each of the three characters so clearly in that trio?? Wait, is that 5/4 time???

How does the comedy fit in? Sometimes rather awkwardly.

This recording captures the grandeur. There are terrific performances here -- Elsie Maynard, Fairfax, and Dame Whatshername are superb. Young Phoebe sounds like she's 48 years old. Smaller roles like Sir Richard and Leonard are sung brilliantly. There is no dialogue which I view as a plus (particularly with the hide-bound delivery of lines in most of these mid-century D'Oyly Carte interpretations.)

The chorus sings with gusto! The orchestra is particularly present in this recording with sly, expressive strings. Sullivan did a lot with the woodwinds in this show and their work is terrific as well. And the tempi strike me as perfect.

However, for my tastes, much of the show hinges on the comedic/tragic performance of Jack Point. In this recording John Reed as Point is musically ineffective and dramatically flacid. He's just fine as the Judge in Trial by Jury, but fails to make much of an impression in much of Yeoman."