Chandos continues its admirable series of operas performed in English with Ariadne on Naxos. In a wordy opera like this it's particularly valuable to be able to understand the wit of the libretto, so for English speakers this recording could open up its humor. Such a venture can only succeed if the translation works, and Christopher Cowell's graceful, idiomatic, and singable version, made especially for the recording, is fully up to the challenge. Richard Armstrong leads the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a vivacious, well-paced performance that beautifully captures the tricky balance between lushness and delicacy the score demands. The vocal performances are solid, if not always spectacular. Christine Brewer is a very strong Ariadne, ardent and strongly characterized, even she if she doesn't quite have the ideal luminosity. Gillian Keith's Zerbinetta has the technical demands fully and effortlessly in hand, but her voice lacks the gleam to make her vocal acrobatics as astonishing as they should be. As Bacchus, Robert Dean Smith seems to be pushing in his upper register and at high volume, and the result often sounds constrained. Alice Coote is a vivid, delightful Composer, and Alan Opie a resonant and authoritative Music Master. Actor Stephen Fry is obviously having a marvelous time as the Major Domo, and he is genuinely funny. Given the number of more vocally consistent recordings, this might not be the only one a listener might want, but for English speakers it could be a fine introduction to the opera. The set is filled out with a crisp and lively performance of the Suite from Le bourgeois gentilhomme. Chandos sound is clean, full, and well-balanced.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
|Suite from Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, Op. 60|
|Ariadne on Naxos|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|Ariadne on Naxos|