This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
This recording of Delius's best opera was made in Vienna with an Australian conductor and an Austrian orchestra and choir, the latter singing in English with scarcely a trace of accent that I can detect. Also, it is issued under the revived Argo label, so is doubly welcome. The music is so close to the 1900 world of Mahler and Strauss, and even closer to the Wagner of Tristan and Parsifal, that it is no wonder it is performed so idiomatically; and what beautiful music it is—and how effective in the theatre, as anyone who saw the Opera North production some years ago will testify.
The Village Romeo has fared well on disc. There was Beecham's famous HMV recording, somewhat curiously cast but a document of some importance
nevertheless. Then came the LP under Meredith Davies in which the late and deeply lamented Elizabeth Harwood sang Vreli so beautifully. But neither of the previous sets, for all their many virtues, can match this new issue either as recording or performance. The sound is full and spacious, with great care taken over the 'distant voices' effects, and the orchestral playing under Sir Charles Mackerras lacks nothing of the subtlety and sensuousness for which Beecham was prized as a Delian. One has only to hear the performance of the opera's most famous episode, the ''Walk to the Paradise Garden'', to recognize in Mackerras a Delius conductor of the first rank, in total sympathy with the music, and the playing of the almost equally lovely interlude between scenes 2 and 3 is just as memorable.
As the two young lovers, Sali and Vreli—son and daughter of Swiss farmers who have quarrelled over ownership of a strip of land—Arthur Davies and Helen Field are ideally cast. The tenor is perhaps a bit stiff and 'clerical' at first, but soon relaxes and is at his lyrical best in the duet before the dream wedding sequence. Helen Field, whose stage successes not only include Desdemona and Violetta but Strauss's Daphne and Tippett's Jo-Ann, is a marvellous Vreli, conveying her innocence and vulnerability in the purest tones. Hear her sing ''Ah, the night is approaching'' to obtain an idea of the supreme excellence of her performance.
A surprising but very successful piece of casting is that of the American baritone Thomas Hampson as The Dark Fiddler, the strange figure whose claim to the disputed land is the key to the plot, not that it matters much. He is there to provide an extra strand of romanticism and Hampson's rich, vibrant voice is absolutely right for the role. His long solo in the last scene is sung splendidly. Barry Mora and Stafford Dean are well cast as the rival farmers. My only reservation is about the weak treble who sings Sali as a child.
The Fair scene comes over well, with lovely choral singing, but nothing is more poetic than the final scene, when the lovers decide to commit suicide by sinking their boat and their voices are succeeded by the calls of distant bargees. Here the recorded balance is particularly good, and the orchestra's playing of the coda maintains to the end the eloquence of the whole performance. Presentation of the discs is praiseworthy. The libretto is printed in four languages (German, Italian and French are the other three) and there is an infor- mative and perceptive essay on the opera by Christopher Palmer. I recommend this set unreservedly, and I shall be surprised if it does not figure prominently in the next Gramophone Awards.
-- Gramophone [12/1990]
Works on This Recording
A Village Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Delius
Arthur Davies (Tenor),
Helen Field (Soprano),
Samuel Linay (Boy Soprano),
Pamela Mildenhall (Soprano),
Stafford Dean (Bass),
Barry Mora (Baritone),
Thomas Hampson (Baritone),
Elizabeth Dobie (Voice),
Vincent Pirillo (Voice),
Maria Venuti (Soprano),
Robert Lucien Demers (Voice),
Sergio Lombana (Voice),
Andrea Mellis (Voice),
Patricia Ann Caya (Voice),
Kimberly Barber (Mezzo Soprano),
David McShane (Voice),
John Antoniou (Voice)
Sir Charles Mackerras
Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Arnold Schoenberg Choir
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1900-1901; France
Date of Recording: 02/1989
Venue: Grossersaal, Konzerthaus, Vienna
Length: 111 Minutes 21 Secs.
Featured Sound Samples
Scene 4: "Ah, the night is approaching"
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