Arthur Sullivan wrote Haddon Hall, "an original light opera in three Acts," in 1892 from a libretto by Sydney Grundy. Regardless of the opinion of critics of the time, I cannot help but note that Haddon Hall is fabulous. It isn't as fine as Iolanthe or Ruddigore, but is of such an even quality that it puts most of Sullivan's other non-Gilbert collaborations to shame.
Haddon Hall has a distinctive flavor, as each of Sullivan's operas with Gilbert. Dorcas' song "But midst our jubilation... `Twas a dear little dormouse" is a joy, as is everything with Rupert Vernon.
I am glad I purchased this recording, even though it has certain shortcomings. Though the recorded quality is very good, the ladies' of the chorus tend to have the unnatural flute-like quality that plagues the BBC Rose of Persia. Also, the orchestra is not professional. I am sure it is far better than some of the Prince Consort's recordings, but the strings often have an edge that implies a failure to keep in time. Still, certain songs show no deficiencies ("There's no one by").
The cast is generally strong. Peter Thomas as Sir George Vernon is excellent. His range extends up to a high G with no unpleasant discomfort. Heather Boyd as Lady Vernon is a good contralto. The quivering voice of Mary Timmons as their daughter Dorothy doesn't always come over smoothly, but is never off-key or pinched. Steven Griffin as her lover Sir John Manners has a strange voice. His top range is almost metallic. He doesn't do a bad job; he just does not have the normal tenor voice.
Alan Borthwick as Oswald (Manner's servant) does have a normal tenor voice. He seems a bit unwilling to give us volume on his top notes, but does very well otherwise. Fiona Main as Dorcas is perhaps the best singer in the lot. Her voice is beautiful.
Ian Lawson puts a dry spin on the sour Rupert Vernon. His performance is fine, matched well by Maxwell Smart as The McCrankie, whose voice is unlike any other. His Scottish accent is comical and enjoyable.
This recording, though imperfect, is still worth the purchase of any devoted G&S fan. Sullivan's skill went beyond Gilbert, and Haddon Hall demonstrates this perfectly.