The New D'Oyly Carte Pinafore (2000)
Orchestra & Chorus of the
This recording of Pinafore might be the strongest traversal of the opera yet, from a purely musical point of view. The singers, to be sure, don't have the instinctive feel for their roles that one hears on the benchmark 1960 recording, but the fastidious care of John Owen Edwards's leadership is admirable. The inclusion of the duet for the Captain and Josephine, "Reflect, my child," is a welcome bonus. The dialogue is unfortunately not as successful, lacking for the energy and vitality that I observed (twice) in live performances of the production.
Review by David Michaels
First of all, this is overall an excellent version of the opera. The sound is quite good (at least as far as I can judge when listening on headphones), the orchestra and chorus provide very strong support, and it contains complete dialogue including many restorations of deleted dialogue (more about that later), as well as a couple of musical restorations. "Reflect, My Child" is included at the end as a bonus track.
Gordon Sandison (Sir Joseph) gives a nicely multi-toned reading of this role, and he has a more solid baritone voice than one often finds in the patter parts. I'd have to listen again to some of the other recordings I have, but without an immediate basis for comparison I'd judge him to be one of the better Sir J.'s I've heard.
Tom McVeigh (Captain Corcoran) — very nice baritone voice. He negotiates "Fair Moon" (which gives me fits) without any noticeable strain and shows a nice touch in the dialogue. He has a fairly youthful sound and (judging by his photo) look which makes it a bit more plausible than in many productions that he might be at least close in age to Ralph (presumably he was quite a young father).
Alfred Boe (Ralph Rackstraw) — very strong and attractive tenor voice. Does his dialogue with a very strong accent (north country? — I believe there was some previous debate on Savoynet over the precise region his accent was meant to represent); he keeps this up consistently (except when singing), but it makes some of his more complicated lines that much more difficult to deliver. Nice job, though!
Simon Wilding (Dick Deadeye) — sounds like pretty much the typical rendition of this role. Strong bass-baritone character voice. Not a standout, but definitely acceptable. Deadeye depends so much on physical interpretation that most recordings don't really do justice to the role, anyway. Also uses a regional accent somewhat similar to Ralph's but not as pronounced (and which, like Ralph's, disappears when he's singing).
Stephen Davis (Boatswain) — excellent job with both the dialogue and singing (and I'm not just saying that because he's a Savoynetter). Played fairly straight, with less of a noticeable regional accent than any of the other "lower class" characters.
James Cleverton (Carpenter) — provides a rock solid bottom on "British Tar", and there's not much else one needs from the Carpenter's Mate.
Yvonne Barclay (Josephine) — again, a very nice job. Not the best Josephine I've heard, but she gives an excellent rendition of both arias and acquits herself well in the dialogue.
Frances McCafferty (Little Buttercup) — very strong voice, if a bit heavier than I personally prefer for this particular G&S contralto role (I've always found Buttercup sounds better with a slightly lighter voice than does, say, Katisha or the Queen of the Fairies). Again, a strong regional accent of some sort.
Gaynor Keeble (Cousin Hebe) — nice mezzo voice. Not a very sure hand with the dialogue — I could barely hear her at times; normally this wouldn't be a disadvantage for Hebe since she only has two lines as "Pinafore" is currently performed, but in this "restored" version she has quite a bit more. Which segues nicely into:
The Restored Dialogue & Music
I hadn't quite realized the extent of how much material for Hebe had been cut from the opera. The biggest restored cut is in the scene between "Things Are Seldom What They Seem" and "The Hours Creep On Apace". In this version, Hebe enters with Sir Joseph, and makes constant interjections during his dialogue with Captain Corcoran; several times Sir Joseph tells her to be quiet, to which she responds "crushed!" (as has been discussed previously on the Savoynet, this is the origin of the usage of "crushed" in Lady Jane's dialogue with Bunthorne in Patience). Eventually Sir Joseph completely loses patience (sorry!) with Hebe and irately orders Captain Corcoran to take her on a tour of the forecastle; this ends the scene. While I enjoyed hearing the restored dialogue from a historical perspective, I think the scene flows much better without it.
More added dialogue is scattered throughout the piece; much of this is additional exchanges between Dick Deadeye and the other characters, and is pretty much in the same vein as his surviving dialogue. For example, at the end of the scene prior to Captain Corcoran's first entrance, after the Boatswain's line which now ends the scene, Deadeye has a line in which he basically echoes what the Boatswain said, only to be "Shame, Shame"'d again by the crew and reprimanded again by the Boatswain. Again, this restored dialogue is interesting from a historical perspective, but I think the opera is stronger without it.
The recitative version of the ending is used (starting from "Take her, sir"). It may just be a case of what I'm used to (and use, as Jack Point would say, is everything), but to me it sounds extremely awkward as a recit. The orchestral playoff at the end of the Act 2 Finale is different as well.
"Reflect, My Child" is given a splendid rendition by Tom McVeigh (ably assisted by Yvonne Barclay) — more kudos to Bruce Miller and Helga Perry on the restoration (as if they needed any further laurels). As mentioned earlier, it is included as a bonus track at the end rather than being inserted where it originally went (prior to "Over The Bright Blue Sea").
My general comment on the restorations is that I'm glad I've got a recording that has them, but it is quite obvious (to me at least) that the piece is stronger without them.
The basic design is the same as the previous New D'OC releases, with reproductions of appropriate G&S trading cards on a solid background (dark blue in this case). The insert has several photographs from stage performances, a cast list (including chorus members, a nice touch not usually done in other G&S series) and the usual production credits, detailed track list, directors' notes on the production, historical notes on Pinafore, and notes by Bruce Miller and Helga Perry on the reconstruction of "Reflect, My Child".
My Overall View
This is a very worthwhile recording to own (if you can find it — it has yet to be released outside the UK), if only to have the restored dialogue and a professional (and nicely done) rendition of "Reflect, My Child." All of the performances are at least satisfactory, and a few (particularly Gordon Sandison and Tom McVeigh) are standouts. I'm glad to have added it to my collection.
Review by Li Yi-Peng
This new D'Oyly Carte Pinafore was made a decade after they made their Mikado and Pirates recordings. Despite the changes that have occured within these ten years, the company's performing traditions and founding values are still present. The inspired musical direction of John Owen Edwards and the cohesion among the cast members is as reminiscent of its predecessor's Decca stereo transversals just as much as the inclusion of the well-spoken dialogue. But this new version has a couple of extra edges in using a virtual first-night score and outstanding digital recording quality.
Most of the cast are capable singers, but I do feel that the people who sing the roles of Sir Joseph and the Captain don't seem to have capable voices. It is just because of their tone of voice that I have to say this. Gordon Sandison excels in his characterisation of the Ruler of the Queen's Navee, where he displays a snobbish, upper-class accent, and shows many tones of his performance style. However, I do feel that his voice is a little too heavy for the part, sounding closer to grand opera than light opera as required. But this is a forgiveable sin when you consider the way in which he tackles his part. I have the same reservation about Tom McVeigh's Captain. His voice may have too much vibrato, with his dialogue sounding too over-exaggerated, he still manages to personify the gallant and tender aspects of the character well. The rest of the male cast is just right, with Alfred Boe's Rackstraw showing his headstrong determination to win Josephine's hand, and Simon Wilding's Deadeye providing a strong force to underpin the character. And the ringing tones of Stephen Davis's Boatswain and James Cleverton's Carpenter only give a nice touch to the male voices.
In the female department, I tend to feel that the female voices are not that strong. Yvonne Barclay's Josephine has a rich voice, but I do feel that it may be lacking some power. I have the same quibbles too about Frances McCafferty's Buttercup, but they both manage to convey the personalities of their characters just nicely. I do feel, however, that the tempi of her songs tends to be a little too slow. The Hebe of Gaynor Keeble seems to me to be the most successful female soloist on this recording, with a sweet and sincere mezzo voice akin to Pauline Wales and Joyce Wright. And, I should say that the female chorus has a bubbly quality to it, only enhancing the realism in the way they portray the female relatives.
This new recording is notable for restoring several passages of lost music and dialogue. There may not be very much lost music, but we should be grateful for the restoration of "Reflect, my child." This new reconstruction from rediscovered band parts achieves a wonderful chemistry between vocal and orchestral parts that you would hardly guess that it was torn out of the final score at the last minute. Also, apart from the restoration of the "Here, take her, sir" recitative and the original orchestral playoff at the end of the Act Two finale, you get some lost passages of dialogue that have failed to integrate themselves into the version of the opera we know today. I have no comments as to whether the opera is better with these segments, but while I feel that it is a good idea to keep the Hebe dialogue, I would not want to see this done at the expense of the removal of the linking recitative between "Farewell, my own" and "A many years ago." These lost passages only give the opera a more complete feel than usual.
Overall, I would say that this is an excellent and superb new Pinafore, which gleams with polish from first note to last. I would only say that the complaints I have about this new recording come about because I did not feel used to this recording on first listen, but I am very sure that it ranks up there with the 1960 Godfrey recording and the Mackerras version. And if you were to ask me if I were to recommend it as a first choice for a new G&S beginner on the hunt for a Pinafore, I would definitely say yes, considering the pleasure that this new recording is bringing me today. In fact, I think that all the various modern Pinafore recordings are bound to bring as much pleasure as this one is bringing to me, so I don't really think that anybody can ever go wrong if they buy this new recording.
|April 2000||TER||CD||CD TER2 1259|