After the success of The Beggar's Opera in 1728, composer Johann Christoph Pepusch and librettist John Gay followed it the next year with a sequel, Polly. Initially suppressed for political reasons, the work didn't reach the stage until 1777, with an entirely renovated score by Samuel Arnold and an updated libretto by George Coleman the Elder. In spite of its title, Polly: An Opera, the work is far more like an operetta than an opera, with considerable spoken dialogue interspersed with brief airs and dances. The vast majority are shorter than two minutes (the CD has 50 tracks!) so in this presentation of the music alone, the result is inevitably choppy, and doesn't give the listener much of a sense of what the whole ballad opera was like, or how the music related to the action. It's all attractive, perky, and witty, if not particularly profound or memorable, at least in part because each piece comes and goes so quickly. This world-premiere recording by the Toronto-based Aradia Ensemble, led by Kevin Mallon, features a company of young, fresh-voiced singers of varying degrees of distinction. In general, the women are stronger, particularly Gillian Grossman, Laura Albino, Loralie Kirkpatrick, Marion Newman, and Eve Rachel McLeod. Among the men, the only stand-out is bass Matthew Grosfeld, and what a stand-out he is; every track on which he sings leaps out and demands attention. Though he was quite young when this recording was made, Grosfeld's voice is exceptionally well-developed: large, warm, secure, commanding, and resonant. This is a singer to watch out for. The sound is clean and nicely defined. The recording should be of special interest to fans of The Beggar's Opera, who here will find out the ending of the story that was left somewhat open-ended in the earlier work.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins