Not Perfect, but Definitely an Essential Performance
Aronne | 09/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance of The Gondoliers is one of two with dialogue. The other, made in 1977 also by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, is not accorded with the same quality of sound or the same quality of cast as this 1960 recording. The 1977 account is only available through Sounds on CD's website.
The normal felicities of this series are here in full. The music is done wonderfully. Thomas Round and Alan Styler are the perfect pair of Gondoliers; their duet is vivacious and well-sung. Both bring off their songs in Act 2 very well. John Reed and Gillian Knight make a perfect Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro. This recording was made during the peak of the company's ability and theirs as well.
Still, special mention must be made of Kenneth Sandford. This is easily his best recorded performance, both in the music and the dialogue. His Don Alhambra is alive in a way few of the other performers are. All are excellent; he distinguishes himself.
One reservation I have is the slightly squeaky Casilda. She doesn't do too well on notes above F-Sharp, but the Casilda on the later, digital D'Oyly Carte recording doesn't do much better. That said, Jennifer Toye's solo singing of Casilda is better than some of her singing during ensembles, and her duets with Jeffery Skitch (a fine Luiz) come off well.
Not everyone will like Joyce Wright's Tessa. Her voice has a lot of vibrato in it, making her sounds a bit older than she was at the time (1960). I have grown used to her and don't mind her. Her "When a merry maiden marries" is beautiful. This isn't Mary Sansom's best performance, but it is still very good.
One annoyance was Decca's choice to divide the opera over the two discs after "Then one of us will be a queen" rather than allowing Act 1 to fit entirely on the first disc, as it would have easily. This can be remedied by working with a program such as FreeRip by making an extra copy.
Compared to the New D'Oyly Carte's Gondoliers, this one is definitely better. The singers all have more character and never shy away from the higher notes. In the newer Gondoliers, Fiametta does not go up to her B-flat and Tessa does not end on a high F in her song. Not so with the present recording.
The fact that this recording includes dialogue is another reason to give it extra recommendation. It is the definitive stereo Gondoliers, fine on all accounts."