Fine Opera; Good Performance
Aronne | 01/30/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Just because I believe Utopia is probably the worst of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas does not mean that I do not like it. I love it! It just isn't as great as, say, Ruddigore or Patience. "Bold fac'd ranger" is among the greatest contralto songs of the canon.
Overall, this recording is adequate, the sound being only so-so. While better than The Zoo's recorded quality, it doesn't come up to the standard of the 1960 sets. It is too bright and lacks atmosphere.
John Reed and John Alydon make a fine pair of villains as Scaphio and Phantis respectfully, even if Reed has a tendency to be more abrasive than usual. The singing of the Flowers of Progress is variable. Most do well enough, even if Colin Wright and James Conroy-Ward have odd voices.
Lyndsie Holland has an uncomfortable higher range. I don't know if this is because of the recording or what, but it somewhat mars her duets with Kenneth Sandford as Paramount. Sandford, though definitely past his prime, still acquits himself well as King Paramount. "Society has quite forsaken" is very successful, even if Sandford doesn't always seem comfortable with his E's.
Pamela Field as Zara is excellent, matched well by Meston Reid as Captain Fitzbattleaxe. The former is one of the few D'Oyly Carte sopranos whose voice resembled Valerie Masterson, the latter one of the most interesting D'Oyly Carte tenors to appear on record. The balance tends to favor him for some inexplicable reason: this would be unforgivable except that he sings Fitzbattleaxe very well.
All is not well in "Eagle high." The balance of the recording is messed up or something. The acoustics seem cramped and stuffy.
That said, the Act I Finale goes admirably and overall, this recording can be recommended with at least some enthusiasm, as it presents one of Gilbert and Sullivan's rarest operas in a more or less complete form. (We receive the shorter form of "Ah, gallant soldier brave and true," no great loss.) This recording contains no dialogue except for two 17 second clips in Act II and the complete dialogue preceding the finale.
The three fillers are enjoyable orchestral works by Sullivan. The Macbeth Overture, the most interesting of the three, is perhaps too jovial for the program material but still finely crafted. This is a worthy addition to any Gilbert and Sullivan collection!"
Call This dated?
Paul A. Gerard | Australia | 12/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Utopia" followed "The Gondoliers" at an interval of two years - the long standing friendship of Gilbert and Sullivan had soured in the interval, and their working relationship was far less harmonious than it had been for their earlier work. Most casual references to this operetta in fact lump it in with "The Grand Duke" and write it off as a flop.
In fact it wasn't a flop at all - by the standards of the time it was actually a hit, although it was less profitable than most of the earlier Gilbert and Sullivan works, among other reasons because it it proved very expensive to stage. Ever since, it has been sadly neglected.
One reason might be that it was probably the most topical of all Gilbert's operetta "books". There were two news items that Gilbert had almost certainly had in mind. One was the appearance of a best-selling book called "The English Governess at the Siamese Court" - based on the experiences of Anna Leonowens. This story was to resurface on the musical stage many years later, in "The King and I". The other event was the appearance of Princess Kaiulani - the daughter of the King of Hawaii (which was still independent)- at an exclusive private girls' school in England.
Utopia is an imaginary South Pacific Island that is adopting English customs and institutions. Gilbert pokes fun, not only at the idea of "globalisation" (he doesn't call it that of course, but that is what it is!) but almost every English institution he can think of, including the concept of "limited liability". He even takes a sly swipe at the Royal family; the then Prince of Wales - later Edward VII - was the subject of a good deal of scandal.
It is all very funny, at the least well up to Gilbert's usual standards. Sullivan's music for Utopia is also very fine - again at least as good as most of his other operettas. If you are unfamiliar with the work, but like the other Gilbert and Sullivan operettas you will love this one!
All in all - well worth grabbing - as the only other way of getting this recording is in the very expensive complete set!"