The Rare Recorded Editions Recordings

In 1972, the Fulham Light Operatic Society, a semi-professional group, made the first-ever recording of The Zoo. This recording was issued on the Rare Recorded Editions label, and it is indeed a rarity. The recording quality is abysmal, and in any event it was eclipsed by the 1978 D'Oyly Carte recording.

Also in 1972, the same group recorded the Terence Rees / Garth Morton version of Thespis. The recording quality was marginally better than that of The Zoo, but still not good enough to warrant frequent listening. A recording of The Contrabandista from the same period was intended to be issued on the RRE label, but was instead issued years later by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society.

Later in the 1970s, Rare Recorded Editions published the first-ever recording of Sullivan's only grand opera, Ivanhoe. Like the Zoo and Thespis recordings, it was a limited edition and is not likely to be encountered today. RRE's recording of Sullivan and Burnand's The Chieftain is, to date, that opera's only appearance on disc. The Rose of Persia set on RRE dates from the 1970s, though the recording itself dates from a 1963 amateur production.

RRE seems to have been a one-man enterprise set up mainly for the fun of it. Their recordings are extremely amateurish and sound as if someone sat in the front row with a hand-held tape recorder. All of the RRE issues, however, were of works not then available on disc, and they were many listeners' first exposure to material that would otherwise not have been available.

The Prince Consort Recordings

The Prince Consort was formed in 1972 to present Victorian and Edwardian musical evenings on the fringe of the Edinburgh Festival. The group has specialized in Sullivan's non-Gilbert operas, four of which were released by Pearl records: The Emerald Isle (1982), The Beauty Stone (1983), The Rose of Persia (1985), and most importantly Ivanhoe (1989). A fifth recording, The Contrabandista, was been issued privately by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society and has now been re-issued on CD, along with a recording of The Chieftain that lay unissued for over a decade. The singing on these recordings is not of a uniformly high quality, but they are more than sufficient to show the many treasures to be found in Sullivan's later operas.

Member Simon G. Boothroyd contributed a bit of history about the group:

The Prince Consort was set up many years ago to perform Victorian and Edwardian music and excerpts from opera etc., in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. (Hence the name of the group). As time went by and the show progressed, the group included music as modern as the 1950's!!

The group had various line-ups over the years, but the two mainstays of the group were Alan Borthwick who produced the group and David Lyle, the Musical Director. One of the main interests of the group was Gilbert and Sullivan. Alan and David thought it would be a good idea to work on some of the lesser known works, inviting others from outside the company to help out. I met Alan in 1984 when we were performing in a production of Princess Ida in Glasgow, and was invited to take over the baritone role (originally Bruce Graham) in the group's annual show. By the time I joined the PC, the group had already recorded The Beauty Stone and The Emerald Isle.

In 1985 we moved the annual show out of the Fringe and into a bigger theatre, performing later in the year. We also performed concert versions and highlights of shows. The Rose of Persia was one of those, and it was recorded. I remember being very nervous! We also did The Arcadians, the original version of Cox and Box and Haddon Hall amongst others, but these were not recorded. We recorded Ivanhoe one year, in studio conditions, over a number of Sundays, which was released on CD by Pearl. The group performed its final concert in 1990 or 1991, I think. The general feeling among the group at the time was that we had exhausted the format of the annual show and wanted to go onto other things. Alan continues to produce and direct shows in a similar vein under his own banner and invites people as required. Personnel from the PC are usually involved. Last year we performed The Emerald Isle, but we have also performed Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella and Allegro.

In 2000, after many years' absence, the Consort returned to the studio and recorded Haddon Hall, which was the one curious omission from their oeuvre. They saved the best for last, in fact — it is an excellent recording.

Ian Bond had this comment about the earlier recordings in the series:

“These are valuable recordings with regard to getting to know the works concerned, but with due respect to all involved, and probably because they are not based on stage production, the recordings tend to be rather slowly paced with very little feel of a performance about them. I would also suggest that the casting of Richard Bourjo as Hassan in The Rose of Persia and Professor Bunn in The Emerald Isle is, in fact a serious miscasting. This singer is a bass, not a patter baritone, and he gives the two roles too dark a complexion. In the case of The Beauty Stone, as The Devil, this is perhaps more appropriate.”

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