on 22 May 2009
I own the other two versions of this Opera on commercial release. I have to say that the Opera North (heavily edited) version has wonderful psychologically arresting performances. However, this 1983 ENO production has better vocalists in all the central roles. Whilst I prefer the emotional intensity of the Opera North production (Barstow is as fine an Elizabeth I as any on stage or screen), the drama is just as high in the ENO production because the vocalists are so fine; Sarah Walker has a steadier voice than Barstow's rather more 'superannuated' one. However, the orchestra is the most powerful recommendation for this DVD. The intensity of the orchestral performance is a revelation.
This is a glorious sounding Gloriana and has made me realise how special this opera is. This is far from being Britten's 'damp squib' composition. Indeed, I find it a work of great beauty, both subtle and thrilling. The finale is terribly moving. Britten surpassed himself for dramatic intensity in what was a composition of genius. This production helps us see just how good the opera is in the right hands. I recommend it. However, if you have the resources buy the Opera North one as well.
on 31 March 2014
'Gloriana' is a work I hardly know at all! I listened to the recording with Josephine Barstow many years ago but remembered very little of it. Told in a series of 'tableaux' from Elizabeth's life and her relationship with Essex, the narrative is episodic but effective, the music wide ranging with definite homage paid to Elizabethan music of the time. This (quite elderly now) ENO production is very traditional in both costumes and sets but the picture and sound quality are both very good and it doesn't show its age at all.
Anthony Rolfe Johnson is in lovely voice as Essex and its good to see such ENO stalwarts are Jean Rigby, Richard Van Allan and Alan Opie in other roles. The crowning glory in all this though - appropriately - is Sarah Walker as Elizabeth. I had no idea what a glorious singer and actress she is! A mezzo soprano who can also tackle the high notes in this role with ease - she is truly magnificent and successfully conveys all the Queen's many different moods throughout the piece. Highly recommended!