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ClassicsOnline Home » SULLIVAN, A.: Ivanhoe [Opera] (Lloyd-Jones)
Touching on greatness
As a fan of the G&S operas for over 35 years, I have waited for someone to record Sullivan's 'opus magnus', Ivanhoe. And this recording doesn't disappoint. The orchestra and conductor are in fine form with strong playing and good tempi. The women fare better than the men on this recording, with Geraldine McGreevy and Catherine Wyn-Rogers worth special mention. At times the solo men's tone can be a little 'rough'. The chorus sings well and their contribution should not be dismissed in making this such a good listen.
There are, for me, sections of wonderful music such as the Templars chorus, 'Fremeure principes'. The duets, especially those with Rebecca, are wonderful. My only quibble is the Act 3 finale which doesn't quite work dramatically.
The problem with the opera is its libretto. Julian Sturgis was no Gilbert and that, on one hand, is good. Sullivan may have fallen back to his 'Savoy Opera mode' and give us just memorable tunes. Sturgis' libretto is 'clunky'. Too often it falls back into operatic stereotypes - repetition of phrases when inspiration runs out, e.g. 'A champion! A champion! or repeated chorus 'Ah!'.
The music, though, needs repeated listening. Sullivan has constructed a score that is very thematic and, once you get the specific character motif in your mind, it becomes much more enjoyable.
Each time I've listened, more and more leaps off the page. (A full score can be downloaded at http://math.boisestate.edu/GaS/other_sullivan/ivanhoe/score/index.html which adds to the enjoyment)
This is Sullivan not quite consistently at the height of his powers but so different to the man who gave us comic operas of such distinction. Listen to his 'Prodigal Son' for even better 'serious' music of his.
This album is worth your time and effort to get to know, even if it is just to get to meet a composer who was touching on greatness without quite reaching it. The rating doesn't give me an ability for 1/2 stars, so 'Ivanhoe' - 3 1/2 stars...touching on greatnessmore....
On for Saint George!
Though it was the lighter music of the Savoy operettas that made him famous (and rich), Sir Arthur Sullivan longed to make his mark as a serious composer. In 1890 he was given the chance to compose a grand opera in English, based on 'Ivanhoe,' Scott's popular novel of chivalry. It ran for 155 consecutive performances, was given five more times afterwards, then basically vanished from the stage; this is the first professional recording of the entire work. The text isn't any great shakes--Julian Sturgis was no W.S. Gilbert--but much of the music is well worth the wait. Freed from the restrictions of the singing actors and small pit band he normally wrote for, Sullivan gives his lyrical side full rein. While he tried to move away from his usual "numbers opera" style, and largely succeeds, the famous character song "Ho, Jolly Jenkin" and a marvelous double-chorus would be at home at the Savoy.
The orchestra and chorus are first-rate, as you'd expect from Chandos. Toby Spence (who could surely headline a new G&S cycle ) lends his ringing voice to the hero, and there are two fine sopranos--Janice Watson and Geraldine McGreevy--as the women who love him. The booklet contains detailed notes (history of the original production, Sullivan's use of motifs, etc), and full libretto.more....
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SULLIVAN, A.: Ivanhoe [Opera] (Lloyd-Jones)