Victorian Opera Orchestra / Richard Bonynge
This interesting new release comes to us from Victorian Opera Northwest whose director, Raymond Walker together with conductor Richard Bonynge have carried out extensive research into the development of the British Opera movement which began in the 1830s and stretched to the 1890s.
Victorian Opera Northwest promotes the excellent forgotten music of 19th century operas by talented British and Irish composers. Their music used to be extremely popular in its time, yet it has been unjustly neglected since. With the aid of well known musicians, Victorian Opera research contemporary sources, typeset fresh orchestral parts taken from original manuscripts and print scores containing rare repertoire. Their latest efforts have resulted in a superbly enjoyable disc of 19th Century Opera Overtures, consisting mostly of premiere recordings.
Born in Germany in 1804, Sir Julius Benedict received a thorough grounding in music from his studies with Hummel and Weber. He settled in London in 1835 at the suggestion of the famous singer, Malibran, eventually taking British nationality and being knighted in 1871. His opera The Lily of Killarney, opened in 1862 at Covent Garden with great success, one of a number of premieres between 1858 and 1864 by the Pyne-Harrison Opera Company. It is still occasionally performed, most recently in Dublin in 2007.
The Mountain Sylph by John Barnett, was premiered at the English Opera House (Royal Lyceum Theatre) in 1834. The first run of 100 performances achieved such success that in 1863, the composer George Macfarren was to write that it “opened a new period for music in this country, from which is to be dated the establishment of an English dramatic school”.
The Siege of Rochelle (1835) was William Balfe’s first major success as a composer. Although his composing career centred on English opera he continued, occasionally, to write for the French theatre and in 1843 he wrote three French operas, the first being Le Puits d’Amour (The Well of Love), which opened in Paris at the Opéra Comique, thus earning him the nickname, ‘the Auber of England’. The work later appeared at the Princess Theatre, London in an English translation with the new title of Geraldine.
The Night Dancers (or The Wilis) by Edward Loder (1846) opened at the Princess’s Theatre to great acclaim and was revived a number of times. The libretto by George Soane was based loosely on the story of Giselle and the “Wilis”, young female apparitions who according to legend, rise up at midnight to dance as brides-to-be and any man who wanders into their domain between sunset and sunrise is forced to dance himself to death.
Born in Waterford, the hugely talented William Vincent Wallace was one of three opera composers who made up the ‘Irish Ring’, together with Balfe and Benedict. He became a fine pianist and a leading violinist and was also Professor of Music at a cathedral convent in Dublin. His opera Lurline (1860), is a grand romantic opera in three acts based on the famous German Lorelei legend. It was premiered by the Pyne-Harrison Company at Covent Garden with tremendous success. It was followed a year later with the Amber Witch (1861) which was premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre by Charles Hallé . Love’s Triumph (1862), composed distinctly in the style of a French operetta, was one of his last operas to get to the London stage.
She Stoops to Conquer, a sparkling comic opera by the blind composer George Macfarren (1864) took its title from the well known play by Oliver Goldsmith. It was premiered at Covent Garden to an enthusiastic reception, “the event of the season”. Unluckily, it opened less than six weeks before the Pyne-Harrison Opera Company folded.
Goring Thomas’s The Golden Web had a glorious reception when it was premiered by the Carl Rosa Company (1893) at the Lyric Theatre, London. The comic plot is based on the old tradition of the Fleet marriage, the area close to the Fleet prison being well known for facilitating clandestine marriages. Sadly, the premiere did not take place until a year after the composer’s untimely death at the age of 42.
Throughout his illustrious career, Richard Bonynge has conducted in the world’s leading opera houses in Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand and Asia. He has received world-wide acclaim as a scholar of bel canto and is celebrated for leading the renaissance of eighteenth and early nineteenth century musical theatre, such as Les Huguenots (Meyrbeer), Semiramide, Sigismondo (Rossini), La Fille du Régiment, Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti,) Esclarmonde, Le Roi de Lahore, Thérèse (Massenet), Medea (Pacini), Orfeo (Haydn) and I Masnadieri (Verdi).
Bonynge’s extensive career includes innumerable performances with his late wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, culminating in her farewell engagements in opera and recital throughout the world. The two artists also toured the United States with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in celebration of Australia’s Bicentennial, with concerts at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall and the United Nations. Bonynge also has an extensive discography of over 50 operas and numerous ballets and video recordings.
In recent seasons he led performances of, among others, La Traviata in Athens, I Capuleti ed I Montecchi in London, Norma, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Scala di Seta and Signor Bruschino in Sydney and Lucia, Norma and Faust in the United States as well as operatic engagements in Barcelona, Buenos Aires and the Wildbad Festival, Germany. Bonynge was made a Commander of the British Empire during the Silver Jubilee Celebration in 1977 in recognition of his work as conductor and music scholar. He was also honoured by the French government in 1989 with the rank of Commandeur de l’Ordre National des Arts et des Lettres”.
“I cannot conceive of better played or -recorded versions than on this CD.” International Record Review, May 2013.
Victorian Opera Northwest:
On This Recording
- The Lily of Killarney: The Lily of Killarney: Overture
- The Mountain Sylph: The Mountain Sylph: Overture
- The Siege of Rochelle: The Siege of Rochelle: Overture
- Le puits d'amour: Le puits d'amour: Overture
- The Night Dancers: The Night Dancers: Overture
- Lurline: Lurline: Overture
- The Amber Witch: The Amber Witch: Overture
- Love's Triumph: Love's Triumph: Overture
- She Stoops to Conquer: She Stoops to Conquer: Overture
- The Golden Web: The Golden Web: Overture