"This is the perfect CD for those who may not be familiar with G&S, or for the initiated who want a smattering but don't have the mother of all CD changers. The difficulty with any G&S Greatest Hits CD is determining which pieces to leave off; while one could easily point to any number equally good bits, it would be difficult to argue about the quality of the choices included. The only problem, such as it is, is that after listening to it I am usually induced to go back and listen to the whole opera anyway. The Mackerras recordings are uniformly excellent. I have read elsewhere the criticism that they are too 'operatic' for light opera. If by this it is meant that the singers are too good, then I leave it to the discretion of the listener when the singing becomes too good to be enjoyable."
The Best Of Gilbert And Sullivan
Rudy Avila | Lennox, Ca United States | 03/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At the end of the 19th century (1870's, 80's and 90's) the compatible duo of librettist and composer Gilbert and Sullivan popularized the pre-Broadway entertainment of Savoy opera. These were light operas or operettas whose content was satire and comedy, full of bouncy melodies and beautiful singing, highly entertaining theatrical works staged at London's Savoy theatre. Gilbert and Sullivan did not always get along and in fact there was a time when they ended their professional relationship because personal conflicts surfaced. But they managed to create the world's most beloved light operas, over 40 of them. Their most famous are what I call the Big Three- The H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates Of Penzance and The Mikado. Other works include their first hit Trial By Jury, The Yeomen Of The Guard, Princess Ida, The Gondoliers, Patience and several others. A standard signature of Gilbert and Sullivan was in the colorful cast- a comic actor with a special kind of baritone voice, a canary-like and sweet-voiced coloratura or lyric diva, a mezzo soprano with strong chest register and a lyric tenor as the romantic hero. On this album, English conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, a popular figure in the classical music scene and opera, guides the Chorus and Orchestra Of the Welsh National Opera in generally well-delivered performances of excerpts from the operas The Mikado, The H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates Of Penzance, Yeomen Of The Guard and Trial By Jury. Although I feel that the recordings made by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, with Isodore Godfrey conducting and starring the best cast of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire- the singers of the 60's and 70's- tenor Phillip Potter, soprano Valerie Masterson, baritone John Reed, Donald Adams and mezzo soprano Christine Palmer. Their version of the Pirates Of Penzance and the Mikado far outshine the Welsh National Opera in technical mastery and vibrant tone color. But these are fine excerpts. Especially appealing is the famous and cheerful "Three Little Maids From School Are We", a trio that imitates Japanese style melody. Most of the Mikado does this, for it was inspired by Japanisme or the new fashion in Victorian England- everything Japanese, from prints to paintings to poetry. Gilbert and Sullivan simply "Japanized" their English operettas. The Finale "For He's Gone To Marry Yum Yum" is an ebullient and pleasant finale. Not featured here is the domineering and powerful Katisha, a figure who stands out in the Mikado. The H.M.S. Pinafore is Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular work. The sea chanty "We Sail The Ocean Blue" opens the opera with appropriate atmosphere and it seems to fit perfectly with the other scene in which the Captain greets his crew and they sing his praises "My Gallant Crew..I am the Captain Of The Pinafore". A beautiful melody that seems to come out of a romantic Offenbach tune is "I"m Called Little Buttercup". The finale, not featured here, is also very engaging "For He Is An Englishman" which can almost resemble a British national anthem. The Yeomen Of The Guard was Gilbert and Sullivan's "serious opera" eventhough it remains very Savoyard. The plot deals with Tudor England and takes place at the London Tower. "I have a song to sing" makes use of what can be taken for an English ballad of the Renaissance. Trial By Jury, about the eccentric and hilarious activity of a court trial, has a sextet that although different in composition, has the sextet "Che Mi Frena" from Donizetti's Lucia Di Lammermoor in mind. All in all, an excellent recording sure to delight young and old."
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 08/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"--Gilbert & Sullivan--
William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan were a match made in heaven, yet on earth their pairing seems even with hindsight a most unlikely coupling. Both were destined for other things, Gilbert in fact for decidedly non-musical careers. Introduced by a mutual friend, Fred Clay, the fledgling lyricist Gilbert met the military-band-leader's son Sullivan and together continued to conspire to inspire the delights of audiences from high Victorian times down to the present, as their work in musical theatre comedy continues to provide merriment throughout the English-speaking world and beyond.--The Music--
This collection includes highlights from five of the most popular Gilbert & Sullivan operettas: The Mikado, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Yeoman of the Guard, and Trial by Jury. The arrangements and orchestrations are delightfully energetic and clear; the characterisation and vocal qualities of the leads are perfect for their roles. The haughty if misplaced Lord of the Admiralty has the perfect combination of insecurity and pompous officiousness. The Plaintiff and the Defendant in the Trial are perfectly cast. This is a collection of highlights - at least three but no more than seven songs each, but this gives a good flavour of the music. The recordings on this collection come from complete performances by Mackerras and the WNO.--Sir Charles Mackerras--
Mackerras is one of the geniuses of the twentieth century musical scene. Having a conducting career that includes the Hamburg Opera, the English National Opera (formerly Sadlers Wells Opera), and the Welsh National Opera (the performers for this piece), he has also conducted major orchestras on the continent of Europe and in the United States. The holder of many major awards and honourary doctorates, he has devoted much time and energy to the preservation and performance of eighteenth and nineteenth century music, as well the restoration of historical musical venues, such as the Estates Theatre in Prague, scene of the original production of Don Giovanni (Mackerras conducted the opera there to commemorate the bicentenary of the death of Mozart).--Welsh National Opera Orchestra and Chorus--
The seeds of the WNO were planted in Cardiff during World War II by music lovers; the first performances occurred a year after the war's end, with Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci on the bill, with Faust the next night. Popular appeal was so great that the WNO was established, later adding choruses in both Cardiff and Swansea. The professional chorus was established in 1973, with a strength that matches the orchestra. They continue an ambitious performance schedule for recording and live events; Mackerras remains the Conductor Emeritus, as the WNO continues under the direction of Carlo Rizzi. The list of awards the WNO has won over the years is staggering - they are a world class institution by any measure.--Other performers--
Notable singers such as Richard Stuart, Rebecca Evans, Felicity Palmer, John Mark Ainsley and Anne Howells lead the chorus with stunning vocals and clever characterisations of the parts they play. Many (such as Stuart and Evans) play the leading roles across several of the pieces of the disc. --Liner Notes--
The liner notes give a good introduction and biographical information about Gilbert and Sullivan, as well as synopses of the five pieces presented here. It does not, unfortunately, include any information about Mackerras, the WNO Orchestra and Chorus, or the other special performers. It also does not include the lyrics to the songs. Were the quality of the CD not so great, this might cost it a star in rating.--Overall Impressions--
I play this CD in my car, in my home and in my office frequently. It is a great sing-along work and a great comedic relief from the stresses of the day. The music is bubbly and clear; the recording quality is excellent and crisp. I recommend this to any Gilbert & Sullivan lover, any fan of musical comedy, opera and operettas, and anyone who delights in good music."
Delicious G&S samplings abound here.
Yi-Peng | Singapore | 05/06/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first thing I should be saying is "What an infectuous G&S CD." Indeed this is, with this fine sampling of the peppy and bright Mackerras series. I know I have praised its "Mercedes-Benz quality" elsewhere on these pages, but that doesn't stop me from saying that everyone is in fine voice. This generously filled CD may only focus on five operas, but at least you can savour a reasonable choice sampling of delights from each one. Of particular interest is Richard Suart's patter-baritone parts and the soaring lyric soprano of Rebecca Evans. The selection on this disc is filled with a mixture of familiar favourites and lesser-known gems such as the female choruses in Mikado and Pirates. Mackerras is a true G&S conductor, but one who always springs rhythms crisply, and adopts peppy tempo for the fast bits. The one drawback is that this selection is far too infectuous that you'll want to shell out money to buy the full 5-CD Mackerras cycle - an incredible bargain with most of the operas fitted onto one disc each. But still, this is at least a decent G&S sampling for beginners, capped with Steven Ledbetter's copious liner notes. It will leave you wanting to say "dammit I'm going to play it again.""
Great addition to any GAS collection
Pat | Goodrich, Michigan, United States | 07/25/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you already have the D'Oyly Carte Best of GAS, this should be your next purchase. Lovely vocals, it fills in some gaps."