This set includes a CD-ROM containing a full libretto and liner notes.
HERBERT Eileen • Michael Butterman, cond; Suzanne Woods (Eileen Mulvaney); John Pickle (Captain Barry O'Day); Catherine Robison (Lady Maude Esterbrooke); Alan Payne (Shaun Dhu); Cassandra Norville (Rosie Flynn); Christopher Norton (Dinny Doyle); et al; Ohio Light Opera Ch & O • NEWPORT CLASSIC NPD 85615/2 2 CDs: 105:50 Text and Translation)
James Stuart, Artistic Director of the Ohio Light Opera, has put Victor Herbert's Eileen together again using love as the primary glue. This three-act "romantic comic opera" has a pedestrian plot and an uninteresting book and lyrics by Henry Blossom, but the faded charm of Herbert'sRead more melodies makes me glad that Stuart put forth the effort. Stuart tracked down scores and alternate versions, and composer Quade Winter constructed an authentic-sounding orchestration out of minimal sketches. (Eileen's full orchestral score is lost.)
By the standards of even 20 years later (it was first produced in 1917), Eileen is flimsy stuff. The plot is a creaky farrago of tired Gilbertian devices hung on a frame of Irish nationalism. The year is 1798, and the Irish are chafing over English rule. Captain Barry O'Day leads the Irish rebels and wins the heart of Eileen, a fainting and sympathetic English lady who is the niece of Lady Maude, who is carrying her own smoldering torch for the brave tenor. Other important figures in the plot are earthy and patriotic Irish folk (fond of their colleens and their whiskey), a few Irish informants (boo! hiss!), and evil or buffoonish Englishmen. At the end of the opera, when O'Day's imminent execution is prevented by a royal messenger, one can be forgiven for asking oneself, "Where have I heard this before?"
So forget the plot and the words. Herbert's music is expertly tuneful, and if it sometimes sounds like second-rate Sullivan, second-rate Sullivan still can be pretty good. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of Irishness in the score (don't forget that the composer was Irish by birth), but Herbert is at his best with a lilting, Romantic song—usually in 3/4 time—in the high English style. Eileen has two of them: "Stars & Rosebuds" and "Reveries," and Lady Maude gets her Marschallin moment with "When Love at Last Awakens." In act III, "Thine Alone" is a fine duet for Eileen and O'Day, although its melody keeps coming amusingly close to "Once Upon a Time," a classic song by Charles Strouse from All American. The act I closer, "Glad triumphant hour," is a rouser.
Newport Classic recorded Eileen from the stage of the Freedlander Theatre at the College of Wooster, as indicated by applause, laughter, and thumping feet. This was a good idea—the electricity of a live performance probably is necessary to sell this opera to average listeners at home, and the sound itself is vivid. Good acting keeps the dialogs from seeming too long. The women are stronger singers than the men, particularly the tenors, who tend to bleat and bluster. Suzanne Woods lends her very pretty voice to the title role, and Catherine Robison's Maude and Cassandra Norville's Rosie also are strong. The chorus is lusty and not overly precise, but the Ohio Light Opera Orchestra does an excellent job. Conductor Butterman keeps it all moving along.
Eileenby Victor Herbert Performer:
Suzanne Woods (),
John Pickle (),
Catherine Robison (Soprano),
Alan Payne ()
Ohio Light Opera
Period: Romantic Written: 1917; USA Date of Recording: 1997 Venue: Live Wooster College, Wooster, Ohio Language: English Notes: Much of the original orchestration for this work was incomplete. It has been reconstructed by James Stuart.