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Sir Arthur Sullivan ‘Ivanhoe’

Libretto: Scott/Sturgis

Janice Watson (soprano), Geraldine McGreevy (soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Peter Wedd (tenor), Andrew Staples (tenor), Peter Rose (bass), James Rutherford (baritone), Neal Davies (baritone), Matthew Brook (bass-baritone), Stephen Gadd (baritone) & Leigh Melrose (baritone)
Adrian Partington Singers & BBC National Orchestra of Wales/David Lloyd-Jones

Chandos chan10578 [c. 3 hours]

This was in its day the longest running English opera ever staged, with 155 consecutive performances in 1891*. Chandos' fine premiere professional recording, which was to have been conducted by the late Richard Hickox, is triumphantly successful under the direction of David Lloyd-Jones, to whom we are indebted for his Musorgsky revivals in the original orchestration.

To our ears and minds, it is fully comparable in quality with many of the Italian operas which flourished, and has the huge advantage that it is well set to an interesting libretto in English dealing with our country's history, partly apocryphal as was the way. There is a Jewish heroine who comes off second best in the end, though she does just escape being burnt at the stake... There are many strong parts mostly very well taken.

Sullivan was always famed as a felicitous orchestrator, and this opera is replete wth great tunes in its arias and ensembles. We began listening with some scepticism, but were quickly captured and captivated.

I feel sure that this enterprise will trigger widespread interest and live productions. Whilst ENO gets its act together, one of the conservatory/college opera companies ought to steal a march over them. It should suit an innovative company such as University College Opera, which fields good professionals for main roles and triumphed with Bloch's Macbeth last year.

Who'll be first?

Meanwhile, this recording in a splendidly packaged and documented boxed set will leave many incredulous at Ivanhoe's near-total eclipse during the 20th Century.

It is recommended with greatest enthusiasm.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* Sullivan's record was topped by Boughton's The Immortal Hour with 216 consecutive performances in 1912
[Serena Fenwick]

Sir Arthur Sullivan’s Grand Opera ‘Ivanhoe’ and its Theatrical and Musical Precursors
Jeff S. Dailey Edwin Mellon Press £69.95

This is a remarkable book, learned but written with a light touch, with 10 photos and 47 music examples, superbly printed and encased.

The story of an opera which was hugely successful orginally but has been marginalised thereafter is studied in depth by Jeff Daley's expansion of his dissertation "The successful failure" [2002].

It is also a fascinating critical history of music criticism from the 1890s to the 1980s, with perceptive insights about the sometimes destructive infuence of the young G B Shaw as music critic.

We learn that the 1989 complete recording on "Pearl" was ignored by Gramophone and Opera, perhaps unsurprisingly as it was " "under-rehearsed, sloppy and tentative", "never transcending the amateur level", "one finds oneself cringeing at the approach of every high note - -" etc...

No fears of that under David Lloyd-Jones; " - - The singers provide a polished performance, sing superbly and support each other admirably. Special mention should be made of Janice Watson with sincerity of portrayal and effortless top notes - - " [Music Web].

Peter Grahame Woolf