Nothing like this Dame
essmac | Nashville, TN USA | 08/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I must come to the defense of my gal Janet, and take issue with the negative review below. No, I don't like Opera in English either, because what language doesn't sing better than English, and like the guy says, it highlights the unnatural speech. But don't take that out on Dame Janet- she's magnificent here.
Her portrayal is different from the other wonderful ones out there (Sills, Gencer, even Caballe have knocked this role out of the park)- more 'English" if you will forgive the use of nationalistic stereotypes. More subtle, more dignified and proper- even though the 'royal b@st@rd' curse is extremely dramatic, Dame Janet doesn't screech it like a sgualdrina on the streetcorner. She sounds like a noble lady who is scandalized that she herself is driven to utter such a word, even to her hated rival.
Not that I don't love the more traditionally Italiante performances, but they sometimes sound like imperious oepra divas, not so much British queens. Not that either is better.
While Dame Janet obviously doesn't sing the high notes that Sills and Sutherland do, she nails the high As and Gs. Big, solid, steady and beautifully formed-- and remember this is live. Again in the curse- "You have dishonored/The throne of England"-- the high note she hits for 'throne' would be the envy of most sopranos and would send most Elizabeths flying right over the battlements.
And as you can imagine, she makes that incredible last act into something really special (singing with no transposition I believe). No camp here: just full-on tragedy. THe prayer is moving, and the last stretta is agony. Love her!
Add to that Dame Janet's beautiful high pianissimi, her unimpeachable technique, always sensitive phrasing, and her highly intelligent attention to the text, and suddenly, the whole affair seems more like a Shakespearean history play (what with the English, and all the asides). The perfect combination of class and drama.
Plowright is also something-- her loudest notes often overwhelming the recording equipment. Her voice seems enormous, and the wheels sometimes leave the road just enough to make things exciting. Let's hear it for the gals who let (if not all, then at least some of) it hang out in an opera. Plowright sings her knickers off- sometimes she even sounds like Jessye Norman, (and I'm thinking, did she ever do Senta?) and while Eileen Farrell (on the Sills) will always by first in my heart, Plowright does a fine job.
This set is absolutely one to treasure, even if (perhaps especially if) you already own the Sutherland or Sills. Think of it as a fine compliment to those recordings.
In any event, I've had this recording for years, and I still get it out to listen to often. How many recordings can you say that about?