Opera Arias in English, Vol.1
Bits and pieces from operas in translation are not everywhere approved of, but having been brought up on such things (and for many better reasons than that) I am all in favour. The editors of Chandos’s Opera in English series will do very well to vary their complete sets with recitals such as this; and what would be splendid would be if they were able to devise for each major voice-type a programme as well chosen as this for the lyric tenor has been. Bruce Ford is a well-trained singer, gifted with a voice of fine quality, skilled in florid work not sung with the aid of aspirates or other ‘separation’ devices; he sings expressively while for the most part (if not quite often enough) preserving a true legato; and, important in this present context, his diction is clear and natural.
The programme is an interesting one, perhaps not entirely successful in its ordering, though doubtless much thought has been given to the matter. “Where’er you walk” fits awkwardly between Rossini and Rimsky-Korsakov, and Falstaff stands without suitable company to right (Lakme) or left (Die Entfuhrung). It all seems a bit arbitrary, perhaps because the purpose is not clear. One of the aims, presumably, is to attract new listeners, maybe of the kind that so many years ago found themselves whistling the Serenade from The Fair Maid of Perth, Heddle Nash’s record having been so often played on the BBC (and now available on Dutton, 2/95, or Pearl, 11/95). Times have changed, as we know only too well, but that Serenade in this new issue would have stood a better chance if it had been performed once again in that specially arranged edition. The authentic version is good opera but inferior song. Is that heresy? I think it is good sense.
Anyway, pleasures abound. The duet from Lakme is a particularly happy choice, and beautifully sung. The Armida duet, too: a rarity and just the kind of of thing that will make a few people interested in finding out more about the opera: that’s progress. The translations seem sensible, and it probably cannot be helped that when “my soul is thirsting” my heart will very shortly be “bursting”. The orchestra play well, as one would expect, especially when under the good direction of David Parry.'