Gilbert & Sullivan: The Pirates of Penzance; Overtures
Malcolm Sargent was music director of the D'Oyly Carte Company in the 1920s, so he brings real authority to recordings of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas from productions at the Glyndebourne Festival in the late '50s and early '60s. "The Pirates of Penzance" includes some of Sullivan's best work. It not only tweaks the conventions of grand opera, but some of the music transcends the parody element and has a lyricism that would not be out of place in "serious" continental opera. The arias "Oh, is there not one maiden breast," and "Poor wandering one" are especially lovely. With a consistently strong cast, his 1961 performance of "The Pirates" is one of the finest in the Glyndebourne series. Elsie Morison, who plays the heroine in all the recordings, is at her best here, singing with brightness, warmth, and fullness. The work also elicits tenor Richard Lewis' most lyrical, sustained, and heroic singing. Contralto Monica Sinclair brings her usual comic panache and vocal power to the role of Ruth. Baritone George Baker and bass Owen Brannigan are also regulars in this series, and are wonderfully funny here. Bass-baritone James Milligan is an unusually charismatic and powerful Pirate King. Sargent leads the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and the Pro Arte Orchestra in a precise, but lively, sparkling performance. The set is rounded out with Sargent's readings of the overtures to "The Sorcerer," "Cox and Box," and "Princess Ida" (works that aren't part of the Glyndebourne series on EMI), and Vivian Dunn and the City of Birmingham playing Sullivan's "Overture in C."