A voice teacher and early music fan
George Peabody | Planet Earth | 08/10/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""THE PLAY'S THE THING" SAID WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, TO WHICH DRYDEN AGREED;
BUT HENRY PURCELL SAID "LET'S ENHANCE THE DRAMA"; MUSIC IS WHAT YOU NEED.
It was Purcell's distinctive contribution to the Restoration, starting with the 'Dioclesian' in 1690, to increase the scale of the musical sections of these 'plays' until they began to rival the spoken text itself, so creating what his contemporary Roger North called a 'semi-opera'.
The first Restoration version of 'The Tempest' was apparently made by John Dryden in 1667, who added several new characters to Shakespeare's cast. In the 1690's, Purcell replaced the older setting with his own version broadly imitating the Italian style. However, there are many questions about how much of this music Purcell really wrote due to many differences IN the music that do not seem to be Purcellian in style, Be that as it may, the 'so-called ' Purcellian version remains today and that's what you will hear on this disc.
Gardiner recorded this in 1979, and it's a really fine rendition displaying the usual excitement and interpretation that is his trademark. The Monteverdi Choir with its bouyant and resonant sound, its clear and precise diction is a joy to hear! My only complaint is that they didn't sing as much as I would like in this work. They actually have only two complete choruses (which were great) and some very short accompanying choruses with the soloists.
There are 7 characters in this short semi-opera (less than an hour in length) but they were notable for their characterizations as well as their skill in singing in this genre. I especially liked John Elwes (tenor)who had a very virtuostic type aria and sang with incredible vocal flexibility. He had to have been very young in 1979!!!Steven Varcoe (as usual) is another outstanding singer; one has to sit up and take notice every time he utters a vocal sound; just great!!!. My favorite female singer was Carol Hall whose (mezzo) seemed very suitable for this kind of music. Jennifer Smith , whom I love in opera, did not seem too comfortable with this singing, but that's just my feeling!.
How could anyone not love hearing this little semi-opera??? It's just so charming and so delightful!!!!"