British composer William Wallace's grand opera Lurline (1848) never quite achieved the success of his 1845 Maritana, which remained in the repertoire of many English opera companies into the early 20th century, but it's fascinating to hear an example of mid-19th century English opera, a genre that's virtually unknown to modern audiences. Its conventions are perhaps most familiar as the style that Arthur Sullivan so savagely and brilliantly lampooned, so even listeners who have never heard this music itself will probably experience a sense of recognition, recalling Gilbert and Sullivan. While the inane libretto, a re-telling of the German Lorelei legend, may inspire smirks, and the music is not the most original or emotionally profound, a listener who attempts to hear the work as a product of its time can appreciate its virtues: an easy lyricism, melodic generosity, and expert text-setting and orchestration. The advocacy of Richard Bonynge, who prepared a new performing edition of the score, lends the enterprise a seriousness that demands respect. This performance featuring the Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra makes about as strong a case as possible for the work. The orchestra and chorus are clearly not at the level of international ensembles, but they are more than adequate in this material, which does not make excessive demands. Most of the vocal performances are quite fine, particularly soprano Sally Silver, mezzo-soprano Fiona James, and bass-baritone David Soar. The sound is clean and open but unexceptional. This album should interest fans of obscure 19th century operatic repertoire. It may well also please Gilbert and Sullivan fans because of the clever light music, and the libretto by Edward Fitzball, which sometimes inadvertently approaches the sublime absurdity of Gilbert's silliest texts.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2