Wallace: Lurline CD
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Keith Lewis (Rupert) - Paul Ferris (Guilhelm) - David Soar (Rhineberg) - Donald Maxwell (The Baron Truenfels) - Roderick Earle (Zelieck) - Sally Silver (Lurline)... - Victorian Opera Chorus & Orchestra - Richard Bonynge, direction
The slow rehabilitation of William Vincent Wallace takes another step forward with the first recording of his third opera, Lurline.
Begun in the mid-1840s and first seen at Covent Garden in 1860, it is based on the familiar legend of the Rhine Maiden who lured passing ships to their watery graves only to fall fatefully in love with a young nobleman. While Wallace’s "beautiful, impressive and picturesque" music met with near universal approval at its premiere, the libretto, by Edward Fitzball, a playwright with a reputation for melodrama who decided a happy ending for the piece would prove an original twist, was greeted with no less universal opprobrium, dismissed by George Bernard Shaw as "desperate trash".
Wallace’s music had many champions in its day. The most prominent advocate was none other than Hector Berlioz, who regarded him as "a composer to be reckoned with". If Lurline didn’t repeat the triumph of his first opera, Maritana, it was nonetheless staged in Ireland, Australia and the United States over the next decade. Such was its success that at least four different publishers quickly issued vocal scores for the work.
Left in virtual neglect since then (Maritana, by comparison, stayed in the repertoire of many leading houses until the late 1920s) Lurline finds a new champion in conductor Richard Bonynge, who has previously recorded two arias from the opera with Deborah Riedel for Melba Recordings, and who prepared his own performing edition for this genially persuasive account with the forces of Victorian Opera.
Caught between Weber and Mendelssohn – a gift of a proposition to Bonynge’s fingertip delicacy with the baton – and brushing a little clumsily up against Wagner, Wallace’s music is easy on the ear, unfailingly mellifluous, and nimbly adept at broadening into bracing drama. There’s a delicate and pretty melodic palette in use, and a big-boned flourish, underpinned by Teutonic winds and brass, in the set pieces, all of which Bonynge makes persuasive use of.
Sally Silver is a seductive siren, Richard Lewis a sober (and rather mature-sounding) love interest, David Soar an imposing Rhine King, and Roderick Earle’s gnome Zelieck characterful and memorable.
Anyone familiar with Balfe’s The Bohemian Girl will know what to expect here, and won’t be disappointed.--Michael Quinn
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Top Customer Reviews
Today, the text is less of a problem as the whole genre has acquired a 'period' appeal which it would be unwise to 'update' or otherwise tinker with. Victorian operas, for all their creaky plots, inconsistent characters and labyrinthine libretti, are endlessly fascinating and full of musical treasures. 'Lurline' is certainly one of these - and we are given a recording as complete as possible, with numbers from both first and second editions of the vocal score. Richard Bonynge has prepared this new edition and used his vast experience to make a highly satisfactory conflation of the various revisions which Wallace made to the opera.
The performance by Victorian Opera has great vigour, if not quite the degree of polish that a fully-professional recording might bring. That being said, the soloists are all excellent, with Sally Silver commanding in the challenging coloratura title role.Read more ›
The CD booklet, whilst it lists the orchestral and chorus performers, is somewhat coy about the ensemble- even the website of Victorian Opera North West is not overly detailed about the history and pedigree of the organisation and its musicians. I am assuming that the orchestra and chorus are largely amateur or semi-professional: not that this causes me any concern. I have long been an advocate of amateur orchestras and choirs, which are often more adventurous in their programming than their professional counterparts, and provide just as high a performing standard.
Having got that off my chest, with the exception of some brittle and slightly shaky playing from the violin section in the overture (where they are at their most exposed) all sections of the orchestra excel themselves. There are particularly fine examples throughout of detailed and beautifully phrased woodwind playing, whilst the brass section is solid and reliable. The modestly-sized but excellently characterised Chorus also acquit themselves with distinction.
And what a cast! Stalwarts of the English operatic scene including Keith Lewis, Roderick Earle and the inimitable Donald Maxwell (a wonderful Falstaff in Peter Stein's WNO production of Verdi's opera, and in Vaughan Williams' `Sir John in Love').Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've now listened to Lurline two or three times all the way through as well as in snippets. I think it is much superior to Maritana, even if the plot and libretto strain... Read morePublished on 12 Mar. 2012 by Nicholas P. Slocombe
I can only echo the comments of most of my fellow reviewers and say that this release from Naxos offers two and a half hours of pure delight. Read morePublished on 7 May 2011 by J. A. Peacock
On the whole I think this is a better score than Wallace's more famous "Maritana". Nobody is going to pretend that Wallace was in the Verdi, Donizetti, Bellini class, but his music... Read morePublished on 12 Dec. 2010 by Reggie Oliver