Related Reviews
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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Opera News
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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BBC Radio 2 'Desmond Carrington'
'Lucky Dip' track
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Crescendo
4 Stars
« HMS Pinafore est une œuvre plaisante contenant de nombreux airs fort bien construits ... Elle reste somme toute assez lisse... »
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BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
'So beautifully done. Sophisticated. It's a strong cast.'
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Fanfare
'The cast for this Pinafore is consistently satisfying...John Mark Ainsley as Sir Joseph...is wickedly funny...'
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Arthur Sullivan Society Journal
'Richard Egarr's enthusiasm for the opera, and for Sullivan, shines out in his conducting, which is lively and sensitive.'
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BBC Music Magazine
4 Stars
Opera Choice: 'As a full modern recording without dialogue, this is definitely recommendable.'
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AllMusic
4½ Stars
'Featuring a charismatic cast...the production was especially noteworthy for conductor Richard Egarr's historically informed approach to the music.'
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KulturRadio
5 Stars
„Diese CD ist ein Glücksfall und ein erstaunlicher Lebensbeweis des Genres.“
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Der Neue Merker
„Die Aufführung der Schottischen Oper in Edinburgh ist jedenfalls ein Hit."
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The New Listener
„Dazwischen hinreißende Chöre und Ensembles, kurzum ein Vergnügen, das diese Live-Aufnahme durchaus adäquat einfängt."
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The Telegraph
'...the performance is largely excellent...the whole thing bounces and sparkles and smiles...'
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The Herald Scotland
'Conductor Richard Egarr, the Scottish Opera orchestra and chorus and a fine line-up of soloists, including John Mark Ainsley, Elizabeth Watts and Toby Spence shine...'
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Gramophone
'...it's light on its feet, and the Scottish Opera Orchestra respond with warmth and grace. It was clearly one of those occasions where everyone plays off each other, and with a cast like this, the results are never less than engaging...'
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Financial Times
'A first-rate cast...[it] sparkles.'
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MusicWeb International
'The singers are first class and well suited to their roles...The rest of the cast do equal justice, with soloists and chorus singing with excellent tonal balance, energy and commitment under Richard Egarr's leadership.'
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Ihr Opernratgeber
„Für den spritzigen Orchesterklang sorgt der Dirigent Richard Egarr . Eine witzige Produktion, die glücklicherweise ohne Holzhammerhumor auskommt.“
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The Sunday Times
'Gilbert's satire on the English class system, political jobbery and hypocrisy, and the navy still resonates...its native tunefulness keep[s] the score fresh.'
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Pizzicato
4 Stars
„frisch gestrichen“
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The Herald Scotland
Interview with conductor Richard Egarr
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Scottish Opera - HMS Pinafore - Presto Classical


20 May 2016
Presto Classical
Katherine Cooper.

I'm kicking off this week's newsletter with a declaration that may well win and lose me any fans I might have out there in equal measure: I love Gilbert & Sullivan, and I always have done. Growing up in a part of the country which was nowhere near an opera-house but which boasted (and still boasts) a superb G&S Society, it became my gateway drug to a lifelong obsession with opera (by the time I was 10, I think I knew all of the Savoy operas barringThe Grand Duke and Utopia Ltd off by heart, as my long-suffering parents will testify...). But it's been so much more than a stepping-stone: I've returned again and again to these works with much delight as both audience-member and performer, so it was a real joy to learn that the most-recorded of all the operettas, HMS Pinafore, was to receive a new outing on disc under the baton of Richard Egarr, captured live and complete (though dialogue is replaced by a concise new narration from Tim Brooke-Taylor) at last year's Edinburgh Festival and starring some of the finest English opera-singers around.

Without pointing any fingers, there's always a risk that G&S performances by casts more at home in Mozart, Rossini or Britten can come across as slightly self-conscious, stylistically ill-at-ease or just plain stale, but 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. As the captain's daughter Josephine and the 'lowly-born' but oddly grandiloquent sailor who adores her, Elizabeth Watts and Toby Spence both have significantly larger voices than we usually hear in this music, and neither shy away from using the full range of colours and power at their disposal. The Act One duet in which she ‘haughtily rejects' his affection in between agonised asides at being compelled to do so has always been one of my favourite moments in the Savoy canon, and brought a tear to three sets of eyes when I listened to my preview copy with two fellow G&S aficionados recently (and it wasn't just the accompanying prosecco talking). Watts is also nothing short of magnificent in her great Act Two scena, where Sullivan's demands are surely equal to anything Mozart or Bellini ever asked of a soprano: this Josephine is no milk-and-water soubrette, but a three-dimensional, passionate woman torn between love and duty (I'd never noticed it before, but Sullivan slips in a cheeky reference to Tristan und Isolde - which premiered 13 years beforePinafore - here as his heroine tremulously awaits a nocturnal assignation with a secret lover despite her imminent arranged marriage to a powerful older man...).

The rest of the cast are every bit as committed and characterful, not least Andrew Foster-Williams's hale-and-hearty but frequently beleaguered Captain Corcoran (who for once sounds of an age with his daughter's lover, as the plot rather bafflingly demands he should be) and Hilary Summers's maternal but still-sexy Buttercup - no cause to wonder what the Captain sees in this ‘plump and pleasing person' here, and the pair have a lovely chemistry which more than equals that of the younger lovers. The comic role of Sir Joseph Porter is more usually taken by singing actors who can do patter rather than lyric tenors of John Mark Ainsley's stature, but he has an absolute ball as the bumptious, viciously over-promoted First Lord of the Admiralty and it's a delight to hear this music really sung rather than given the Rex Harrison treatment.

Working from two recent scholarly editions of the score, Egarr brings out some wonderful orchestral detail which I'd never noticed before (particularly in the big ensembles), and phrases everything with such line and lyricism that any sense of that ‘rum-ti-tum' autopilot which often repels Gilbert and Sullivan's detractors is kept consistently at bay. Fingers crossed that he gives the dozen remaining operettas the same treatment!


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Related Links

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