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Classical CD Choice
'This is a lively and ingratiating reading of Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic masterpiece...the opera is dispatched in energetic fashion.'
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Critic's Choice: 'Revelatory...An eminently seaworthy Pinafore, sure to captivate Savoyards everywhere.'
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Limelight
'The music is bright and melodic with excellent harmonies.'
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Crescendo
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« HMS Pinafore est une œuvre plaisante contenant de nombreux airs fort bien construits ... Elle reste somme toute assez lisse... »
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'So beautifully done. Sophisticated. It's a strong cast.'
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Opera Choice: 'As a full modern recording without dialogue, this is definitely recommendable.'
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AllMusic
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„Diese CD ist ein Glücksfall und ein erstaunlicher Lebensbeweis des Genres.“
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The Telegraph
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Gramophone
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Disc of the Week: '…for my money Egarr and Co. get the balance between tradition and freshness absolutely spot-on: there’s a tremendous sense of affection and conviction from all involved, and never a suggestion of anyone condescending to the material…Working from two recent scholarly editions of the score, Egarr brings out some wonderful orchestral detail...'
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Pizzicato
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„frisch gestrichen“
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Scottish Opera - HMS Pinafore - Fanfare


02 August 2016
Fanfare
Huntley Dent

Poor old Pinafore, relegated since the long-ago demise of the D'Oyly Carte company to musty closet shelves and amateur groups, the latter generally desperate to get laughs with slapstick comedy that is totally alien to G&S or camp hijinks that demean it atrociously. Whether it's Offenbach, the Strauss family, Lehár, or Gilbert and Sullivan, successful operetta rides on a balance of sentimentality, warmth, and humor. In the case of H.M.S. Pinafore, nostalgia plays a major role as well, because we can't hope to recapture the supremacy of the British navy that served as the counterfoil to the foppish, foolish Sir Joseph Porter and "his sisters and his cousins, whom he numbers by the dozens, and his aunts." When the show opened in May 1878 and became G&S's first international smash hit, Victoria's throne was solid as a rock, and so was a society that delighted in spoofing its imperial prowess. Where are the snows of yesteryear?

The present release is a live 2015 performance from the Edinburgh Festival by Scottish Opera, part of a mini-boomlet in reviving G&S with serious opera stars-the English National Opera also mounted The Mikado in 2015, in London. The cast for this Pinafore is consistently satisfying, and the tone is high spirited, although one can't hope to recapture the now-quaint singing style of classic recordings under Malcom Sargent and Isidore Godfrey. (A quick glance at historic YouTube videos instantly reveals the difference.) The one cast member who escorts us in a time machine is John Mark Ainsley as Sir Joseph. His arch, fey delivery is wickedly funny and even outdoes the legendary Martyn Green, whom he is basically channeling.

The rest of the cast is slightly sober-sided. Long before the age of political correctness, W. S. Gilbert began to be criticized for his cruel treatment of fat forlorn spinsters, so it's nice to report that the Buttercup of Hilary Summers isn't an object of ridicule; she's also a very good singer. I do miss the days when the leads competed to outdo each other in comic turns, but even without the classic bits, Gilbert's humor and Sullivan's melodic gift come through abundantly. My only disappointment is that soprano Elizabeth Watts sounds too old and heavy for the girlish Josephine; in ensembles she's sometimes indistinguishable from Buttercup. Toby Spence is an accomplished tenor, but his Ralph Rackstraw sounds a little too operatic, and the voice isn't always under perfect control. Richard Egarr conducts a spirited orchestral part, fully the equal of his predecessors, or nearly so, and BBC Radio 3's in-concert sound is very good. In physical form this performance comes on two CDs, sold at mid-price. The audience is silent except for applause at the end of each act.

We haven't reached the point with any G&S operetta where beggars can't be choosers. All the old standbys are still in print or easily found on the used market. So having a spiffy, sonically updated Pinafore counts as a small luxury, not water for parched throats. Full libretto and excellent program notes that remind us of a glorious, funny past.


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Elizabeth WattsElizabeth Watts
John Mark AinsleyJohn Mark Ainsley
Richard EgarrRichard Egarr
Scottish OperaScottish Opera
Toby SpenceToby Spence
Gilbert & Sullivan: HMS PinaforeGilbert & Sullivan: HMS Pinafore