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Sullivan: The Rose Of Persia, Overtures / Higgins, Et Al


Release Date: 08/16/2005 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777074   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Arthur Sullivan
Performer:  Richard Edgar-WilsonClaire HenryLynton BlackClaire Pendleton,   ... 
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwark VoicesHanover Band
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 25 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews


Sullivan didn’t have many years left to his life after the much-publicized break with Gilbert in 1896. The composer had suffered painfully from kidney stones for nearly a quarter-of-a-century, and this would ultimately kill him in 1900. In the meantime, he composed a ballet, several pieces of incidental music, and three more operas. Of these, the first was The Beauty Stone , while the third, The Emerald Isle , was left unfinished at the time of his death and completed by Edward German. The last completed opera of Sullivan was The Rose of Persia , set to a libretto Read more by Basil Hood. Produced at the Savoy Theatre in 1899, it racked up a respectable 220 performances. (By comparison, Utopia Limited , the next to last Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, managed 245, while its predecessor, the extremely popular The Gondoliers , had an initial run of 554 nights.) The work was praised highly in the press, but did not fare well over time. Reading between the lines of contemporary reviews, I come away with a sense that the players and production values interested contemporary critics rather more than the book, lyrics, and music, which were admired in general.


It’s easy to understand why The Rose of Persia didn’t last, after listening to this new recording. The pseudo Arabian Nights setting is used as backdrop to a complex plot whose characters are frequently uninteresting and whose lyrics are usually dull. There are exceptions, as in the delightful act I quartet where the Sultan takes stealthy trips in disguise among commoners followed by his vizier, physician, and executioner—each referring back with increasing convolution on all those who proceed him. As a rule, though, the lyrics forego sparkle; and while the dialog is better, the intense and varied humor of Gilbert is sadly missed. That’s not to say the contemporary field lacked for good alternatives to the splenetic Gilbert; just that Hood wasn’t among these. Happily, this first commercial release of the opera contains all the music and lyrics, though most of the dialogue is missing.


That music is undeniably appealing. As in The Grand Duke , the last of the G&S collaborations, Sullivan seems frequently at his best in numbers that challenge standard form, or those that venture onto satirical ground. Hassan’s private buffet of food, song, and dance in act I is an example of the former, while Sunbeam’s act II solo, with its skewering of social snobbery, is an example of the latter, rendered all the more charming by a lengthy concluding orchestral passage that launches delicately onto modal turf. There are a few moments in the score of ersatz local color, made effective by Sullivan’s usual good taste. For the rest, it is less notable for memorable tunes than subtle orchestral touches and moments of harmonic elaboration: the cello solo that accompanies Hassan’s awakening in act II, for instance, or the least thematically repetitive glee Sullivan ever wrote, later in the same act.


The cast is generally good. Richard Stuart has the character and rather more voice than the average Grossmith interpreter. (So called in honor of George Grossmith, a great musical theater comic and the original for many parts in G&S operas; though the first Hassan was actually one of Grossmith’s most distinguished successors, Walter Passmore.) Ivan Sharpe brings to mind Derek Oldham, whose delicate, persuasive charm graced several G&S recordings back in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Richard Morrison’s Sultan is suitably authoritarian and robustly delivered. On the distaff side, Sally Harrison’s beautifully centered tone is a great asset to Rose, though she understandably takes the alternate lower reading on “’Neath My Lattice”—the part was written for Ellen Beach Yaw, who was required to hit an F in alt (not coincidentally the highest note she sang as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte ). As Scent, Marilyn Hill Smith’s voice is a thin reed, and her habit of approximating pitch in faster passages does her scant justice. Marcia Bellamy’s embryonic wobble may be in character as the slightly-over-the-hill Sunbeam, but I suspect it’s real rather than assumed. She enunciates and emotes well, however.


Tom Higgins is inclined to moderate tempos, perhaps feeling that the faster numbers are beyond his soloists’ capabilities, and that the slower ones can’t sustain their inspiration at an appropriate pace. Regardless, he conducts with energy and an awareness of the score’s orchestral beauties, offering good support to his soloists. The filler overtures show less attention to detail and more scrappiness in performance than the main work, with the ends of phrases at times too clipped. While the inclusion of the Overture di ballo is appreciated, the reading is foursquare, and I still give the palm to Mackerras and the Philharmonia (currently on London B0001998).


The sound is clear and well balanced between singers and orchestra. There’s a strange essay included that tries to make The Rose of Persia into a genuine expression of Sullivan’s love for exotic cultures. (Sullivan’s foreign forays usually extended from the gambling dens of large urban centers to their theaters, and back again.) Text for all numbers is provided, though not the entire libretto.


I doubt that The Rose of Persia will take G&S aficionados by storm. It is a pleasant piece, worth hearing for Sullivan and intermittently for Hood, though lacking the more concentrated response that Gilbert invariably drew from his musical colleague. No Savoyard will want to do without it, however.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1. Rose of Persia by Arthur Sullivan
Performer:  Richard Edgar-Wilson (Tenor), Claire Henry (Soprano), Lynton Black (Bass Baritone),
Claire Pendleton (Soprano), Ivan Sharpe (Tenor), Marcia Bellamy (Mezzo Soprano),
Sally Harrison (Soprano), Jonathan Veira (Baritone), Richard Stuart (Baritone),
Ian Caddy (Bass Baritone), Alison Roddy (Soprano), Marilyn Hill Smith (Mezzo Soprano),
Richard Morrison (Baritone), Marilyn Hill Smith (Soprano)
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Southwark Voices,  Hanover Band
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899; England 
Date of Recording: 2/1999 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex 
Length: 145 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 
2. Yeomen of the Guard: Overture by Arthur Sullivan
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hanover Band
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; England 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, Engla 
Length: 5 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 
3. Overture di ballo by Arthur Sullivan
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hanover Band
Written: 1870 rev 1889 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, Engla 
Length: 12 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 
4. MacBeth: Overture by Arthur Sullivan
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hanover Band
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; England 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, Engla 
Length: 7 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 
5. HMS Pinafore: Overture by Arthur Sullivan
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hanover Band
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878; England 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, Engla 
Length: 4 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 
6. Pirates of Penzance: Overture by Arthur Sullivan
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hanover Band
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1879; England 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, Engla 
Length: 7 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 
7. Mikado: Overture by Arthur Sullivan
Conductor:  Tom Higgins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Hanover Band
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1885; England 
Venue:  The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, Engla 
Length: 8 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Notes: The Old Market, Hove, East Sussex, England (01/27/1999 - 02/02/1999) 

Sound Samples

The Rose of Persia: Act I: Overture
The Rose of Persia: Act I: As we lie in langour lazy (Chorus of Girls, Hassan)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: When Islam first arose (Abdallah, Chorus of Girls)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: O life has put into my hand (Dancing Sunbeam)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: Sunbeam! The Priest keeps saying (Blush-of-Morning, Dancing Sunbeam, Abdallah)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: If you ask me to advise you (Heart's desire, Scent-of-Lilies, Rose-in-Bloom)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: 'Neath my lattice (Rose-in-Bloom)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: Tramps and scamps (Chorus, Hassan)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: When my father sent me (Hassan, Chorus)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: Peace be upon this house (Yussuf, Hassan, Chorus)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: Musical maidens are we (Rose-in-Bloom, Scent-of-Lilies, Heart's Desire, Honey-of-Life, Hassan, Chorus)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: Peace upon this house (Abdallah, Chorus, Hassan)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: The Sultan's Executioner (Dancing Sunbeam, Hassan, Abdallah, Rose-in-Bloom, Heart's Desire, Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life, Yussuf)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: I'm the Sultan's Vigilant vizier (Vizier, Physician, Executioner, Sultan)
The Rose of Persia: Act I: O luckless hour! (Chorus, Dancing Sunbeam, Sultan, Blush-of-Morning, Vizier, Physician, Hassan, etc.)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: Oh, what is love? (Heart's Desire, Yussuf)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: If you or I should tell the truth (Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life, Heart's Desire, Yussuf)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: From Morning Pray'r (Chorus, Vizier, Physician, Executioner)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: Let a satirist enumerate a catalogue of crimes (Sultan, Chorus)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: In the heart of my hearts I've always known (Dancing Sunbeam, Blush-of-Morning, Honey-of-Life, Song-of-Nightingale, Sultan ...)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: Suppose - I say, suppose (Rose-in-Bloom, Sultan)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: Laughing low, on toe-tip (Chorus, Hassan, Vizier, Physician, Executioner)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: It's a busy day for thee (Scent-of-Lilies, Executioner, Chorus, Yussuf, Heart's Desire, Hassan)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: Our tale is told (Yussuf)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: What does it mean (Dancing Sunbeam, Blush-of-Morning, Yussuf, Royal Guard)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: It has reached me a lady named Hubbard (Dancing Sunbeam, Scent-of-lilies, Heart's Desire, Honey-of-Life, Yussuf, Hassan, Abdallah)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: Hassan, the Sultan with his Court approaches (Vizier, Physician, Executioner, Chorus, Sultan)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: There was once a small Street Arab (Chorus, Hassan)
The Rose of Persia: Act II: A bridal march (Chorus)
Overture di ballo
HMS Pinafore: Overture
The Pirates of Penzance: Overture
The Mikado: Overture
The Yeomen of the Guard: Overture
Macbeth: Overture

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