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John Gay/Benjamin Britten: The Beggar's Opera / Bedford


Release Date: 04/07/2008 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 436850   Spars Code: AAD 
Composer:  John Gay
Performer:  Helen TempletonYvonne KennyDeclan MulhollandAnn Murray,   ... 
Conductor:  Steuart Bedford
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aldeburgh Festival OrchestraAldeburgh Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Britten's arrangement of The Beggar's Opera is a process of absorption and re-creation, sometimes fierce or poignant, sometimes magical in its loveliness.

''Not a 'sport' among Britten's operas but an integral part of the totality of theatrical work, from Paul Bunyan to Death in Venice'': Donald Mitchell puts the claim well, and this first recording supports it all the way. The Beggar's Opera was Britten's new work for the English Opera Group in 1948 and had its premiere at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge. There were joyful performances in subsequent years at Sadler's Wells. but revivals have been comparatively rare. Whether on doctrinal grounds (a preference for Gay-without-gloss, the folk opera naked and unashamed), or
Read more whether out of a notion that being an arrangement, it hardly constitutes a 'work', Op. 43 has had less than its due.

Everything here is well set-up to make amends. The 12 players forming the chamber orchestra are excellent individually (and each is provided with special opportunities) and they respond sensitively to Steuart Bedford's direction. With Harry Christophers as chorus master and Michael Geliot in charge of dialogue, the singer-actors are expertly assisted, and Michael Woolcock's production is vivid without being obtrusive. There is always a problem over the matching of speaking voices with the singing, and another over the accents ('common', 'posh', 'mummerset' or whatever). Occasional anomalies persist here. Mrs Peachum's singing voice is splendidly forthcoming, her speaking a trifle reticent, and Lucy clearly has been brought up 'posh' though her dad is decidedly 'common'. At the very least, the speech causes no embarrassment; at best it is spirited, and the full-fathom-five depth of Robert Lloyd's Peachum gives profound pleasure.

All scores have a reckoning'' as the Beggar remarks, and finally it is to Britten's score that one has to return when making a recommendation. The Beggar's Opera can also be obtained on records in very different forms. There is the 'authentic' version with the Broadside Band under Jeremy Barlow, highly unattractive too. The starry version under Richard Bonynge is more entertaining, but here the gloss is thick and the enrichment of musical interest, when it occurs, scarcely stretches the imagination. Britten's work is of a different order altogether. It is not mere cleverness, though the sheer ingenuities of rhythm, counterpoint, harmony and orchestration keep the ear fully occupied and delighted. Much more, the process is one of absorption and re-creation, sometimes fierce or poignant, sometimes magical in its loveliness (the use of the chorus in ''Cease your funning'', for example). The marvel is that the tunes themselves, so far from rejecting Britten's treatment as the body might reject a transplant, seem to find themselves in their element. The recording fills a gap in respect of Gay's masterpiece as surely as it fills another in the Britten oeuvre.

-- Gramophone [9/1993]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Beggar's Opera by John Gay
Performer:  Helen Templeton (Alto), Yvonne Kenny (Soprano), Declan Mulholland (Voice),
Ann Murray (Mezzo Soprano), Robert Lloyd (Bass), Anne Collins (Mezzo Soprano),
Philip Langridge (Tenor), Christopher Gillett (Tenor)
Conductor:  Steuart Bedford
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aldeburgh Festival Orchestra,  Aldeburgh Festival Chorus
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1728; England 
Date of Recording: 06/1992 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Snape, London 
Language: English 
Notes: Arranged: Benjamin Britten 

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