One of the reviewers below truly does not like this collection. I can understand and do agree with some of his criticisms, but not with all.
Ann Murray is mostly in truly beautiful voice, especially on the first disc. No one would suggest her French is perfect (and it's not - it is very English), but her feeling (mostly) for the songs is often charming, and I enjoyed in particular her singing of "La p‚querette" and "Boléro", which moved in very sprightly fashion.
Anthony Rolfe Johnson's voice is inexplicably referred to by a reviewer below as a "dry little voice" and "completely lacking in charm or aural appeal". This is demonstrably not true - listen to the soundclips above, and you will hear a beautiful tenor voice in the classic modern English style. Anthony Rolfe Johnson has a sensitive approach, which admittedly does not always serve the music as well as it could, particularly where darker emotion is required or deeper passions could be shown - but goodness! The voice itself is delicious! Anything for which the requirement is a gorgeous sound and a feeling of tenderness is exactly what he does best.
(I must agree that his Italian is not good - it's very very British and makes scarcely an attempt at an Italian accent.)
Felicity Lott is my least favourite singer on this set. I particularly didn't like her first two offerings here - and I don't believe Ms Lott ever "gets" the style. Her French IS indeed heavily accented (school French is correct) - she liaises where she should, she follows the rules, but the flavour is always roast beef instead of crÍpes Suzette. However, her voice is not ugly, and she certainly knows what she is singing. It's just that none of that knowledge really percolates into anything approaching the French style and an interpretation that reaches the listener. To understand what I mean, compare her version of "Mignon" with that sung by Sophie Marin-Dego on the CD "Vivent les vacances" - what a difference! (That album, by the way, is one I very highly recommend.)
The first CD of this set comprises only some of Gounod's French songs (sung by the two women), and the second CD consists entirely of the Biondina cycle (sung in Italian) and Gounod's "English" songs (sung in English). As Anthony Rolfe Johnson doesn't even sing any songs in French in this set, it's rather unfair to make any assumptions about his French. I thought the Biondina often sounded ravishing, and if I was left wishing for more urgency and variation in some of the songs in this cycle, that and the very English accent remain my sole caveats.
It was the English songs on this set that made me most uncomfortable. All three singers essay these songs in the rather bombastic style that has hamstrung English ballad singers throughout the last century. The "r"s are rolled (overly so); the approach is often coy and school-ma'am-ish; the timbres seem to slip into Savoy Opera G&S style... and in my opinion does not serve the music as well as would a more straightforward and elegant approach. It doesn't help that the lyrics are mostly pretty dreadful...! Why, oh why didn't Gounod use some better quality poetry?
Overall, it's undeniable that this is not a representation of French songs sung with impeccable French style. That's true. But the singing itself is often lovely, and certainly Graham Johnson's playing is beautiful - I do agree that the playing was sometimes stodgier than I felt it should be, but this reflects the tempi chosen by the singers.
In all, in spite of the stylistic lack and the English pronunciation of the French, this remains an often beautifully sung set, containing otherwise unavailable recordings of comparatively rare songs in the discography. (Why is Gounod so infrequently recorded? It is strange.) And for those reasons, this is a set worth having.
I would actually give this 3 and a half stars, but I do think 3 stars is a little unfair... so 4 stars let it be.