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Reviews

Great Operatic Arias with Sir Thomas Allen 2
16 Nov 2008

Great Operatic Arias with Sir Thomas Allen 2

The "2" in this disc's title indicates that this is the second Chandos recital for Sir Thomas Allen.

Great Operatic Arias with Sir Thomas Allen 2

Thomas Allen, baritone, Philharmonia Orchestra, Gareth Hancock: assistant conductor, David Parry: conductor.

Chandos 3155 [CD]

$12.99  Click to buy

The selections (all in English) jump back and forth between Mozart and Verdi until a closing number of Kurt Weill. Even an artist as fine as Sir Thomas can’t quite overcome the challenge of embodying a character with one aria when one track of his Figaro moves to his Papa Germont, which is followed by his Papageno. Listeners might be advised to program the selections by grouping the two different composers’ works together, to keep at least some musical cohesion.

Conductor David Parry’s poky pacing dampens the humor and high spirits of the Flute and Don Giovanni numbers, and the fussy formality of the English translations are a further hindrance. In Verdi, however, Parry and the Philharmonia Orchestra involve themselves more in the drama. Almost 20 minutes go to the act two Traviata duet, with Claire Rutter as Violetta. Once again, the Engish translation’s stilted syntax can be a distraction, but both Sir Thomas and Rutter have the time to deepen their characterizations. Even better are two scenes for Don Carlos (a fine Gwyn Hughes Jones) and Rodrigo, where the voices blend handsomely.

Perhaps Sir Thomas is heard at his charismatic best in the final cut, Kurt Weill’s “September Song.” Allen doesn’t oversing, as classically trained singers tend to do in Broadway numbers, and his feeling for the lyric is natural and affecting.

John Steane’s booklet essay concerns itself with the nature and history of the operatic baritone voice, making key points with the arias of this collection. Some readers will be illuminated, and other may find it dry and didactic. The latter group probably would appreciate an expanded biographical note on the singer, and perhaps some words from Sir Thomas himself. The essay and artists’ notes come in English, German, and Italian, but only English texts are provided.

Chris Mullins

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