DAVID BRYSON | Glossop Derbyshire England | 06/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This disc can be thought of as either a sampler or a mixed recital. The title on the liner is approximately accurate. There are 15 items extracted from other Chandos discs, all sung in English by way of promoting the Opera in English project. Most of the selection is from Italian opera, but not everything is Italian and not everything is opera. Bizet and Janacek are here too, one famous piece of Italian Can Belto is Rossini's Cuius Animam, originally to a Latin text, and the disc ends with a fine stirring rendition of Rejoice Greatly from the Messiah, which of course was in English to start with.
In my own collecting I am not a snippets person, and this disc was sent to me on a complimentary basis following my response to a marketing initiative. However on its own terms the disc strikes me as distinctly good. The recordings date all the way from 1968 to 2004, although the liner does not say which were done when, and the recorded quality is never less than good. All the extracts are of sufficient length to give the listener a fair idea of the quality of whatever they were taken from, provided they are properly representative. Where the piece is genuinely self-contained it is not truncated. The main oddity from my point of view is that 2 of the 4 Verdi items are taken from Falstaff, which is as seamless and continuous as Tristan itself. In particular the second of these is Ford's aria from Act III, which has to be chopped off abruptly. This is not surprising, as Verdi himself said that he deliberately avoided giving this number a final close precisely to prevent its being used in recitals.
All the contributions are from distinguished orchestras, and the trumpeter in the grand march from Aida performs splendidly. I did not immediately recognise all the names of the soloists and conductors, but my collection has grown so large in the cd era that I should not be surprised to find that at least some of the performers are already represented in it. I certainly did recognise with pleasure the names of Nicolai Gedda, Susan Gritton and Thomas Allen, all of whom unsurprisingly come up to expectations. The name I knew among the conductors (other than Menuhin) was Simon Rattle, and I am quite sure that it was not just for that reason that I found his contribution, from Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen, to be the outstanding offering here, atmospheric and gripping. However I'm inclined to say that there was no performance here that I failed to enjoy.
The marketing initiative that I mentioned comes from Colchester Classics in the person of Liz Leatherdale (Mrs). Apparently her position as Chandos Direct Manager was abolished in a reorganisation, and she has set up a franchise arrangement with Chandos, namely of course Colchester Classics. I feel slightly hypocritical in recommending the Opera in English project, because while on the one hand I support the idea and I have been favourably impressed with what I have heard of its productions, I have in practice been very conservative and stuck with opera in the original when collecting my opera sets. Having received this sampler free gratis I hope I shall in future at least be shamed into investigating this part of the market with greater curiosity, and I can in all sincerity recommend this particular collection of favourites. Meantime I wish every success to Colchester Classics and especially to Liz Leatherdale (Mrs)."