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Sorcerer/Zoo

Gilbert and Sullivan Audio CD

Price: CDN$ 68.01
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent if Not Perfect D'Oyly Carte Recording; the Best we Have Jan. 21 2009
By Aronne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Very little competition exists for this D'Oyly Carte recording of The Sorcerer. The D'Oyly Carte recorded the work once in 1933 (with significant cuts), and once in 1953 (both in mono). A stereo recording with dialogue by the Ohio Light Opera Company exists, though it is exceptionally expensive

Weaknesses:
Perhaps the greatest problem with this set is the fact that there is no dialogue. The Sorcerer was not in repertoire in 1966, thus there was little chance of that happening. Though none of the singers in this recording had actually played the part they sang, all do reasonably well in characterizing their performances.

David Palmer isn't the strongest tenor, though that is a matter of opinion. He seems to make too much effort to get up to his high notes. The male chorus sounds funny in one or two songs in Act 1, as though it were a male chorus with a tenor solo (who pronounces "Alexis" in a strange fashion), but is otherwise excellent.

Strengths:
Valerie Masterson. Aside from John Reed and Donald Adams, Masterson seems to have the best grip on her role. She sings with great charm; her waltz song in Act 1 comes of noticeably better than in the 1953 recording with Muriel Harding taking the role of Aline. Donald Adams' performance as Sir Marmaduke is also a plus.

None of the other performers are particularly amazing or deficient. Still, I must admit that it is pleasant to hear Alan Styler as Dr. Daly. I believe this is the last recording he made before his death in 1970.

Of all of The Sorcerers to date, this one is the best by default. V. Masterson and John Reed (who gives a virtuoso "My name is John Wellington Wells") alone make this recording worth buying!

Now, for The Zoo, recorded 12 years later.

The Zoo, at delightful little work attempting (and failing) to be the perfect jewel we know as Trial by Jury, has only been recorded professionally once. This is it. The music, while not perfect, is still very consistent, with some delightful ensembles, humorous choral interaction, and tuneful moments ("Fare thee well, Laetitia" being a prime example). It is a welcome makeweight for The Sorcerer.

Narration is added to this recording perhaps because, like Trial by Jury, the opera was written with no dialogue. Generally, the narration is believed to have been unnecessary (that's what program notes are for). Geoffrey Shovelton, D'Oyly Carte tenor, delivers the neverthless well-crafted narration excellently.

Kenneth Sandford, perhaps noticeably past his prime, still sings very well as Thomas Brown, one of the most prevalent characters.

Jane Metcalfe as Eliza Smith, is a mezzo-soprano with range: she gets up to A-flat without any unpleasantness, singing her entire part very convincingly. Considering that this was the first public performance of The Zoo since its initial run, all of the singers do very well in this little farce. Meston Reid is his typical fine self. Julia Goss makes no great errors, and John Alydon is an unrepeatable Mr. Grinder.

The sound, "fresh as paint" according to the Penguin Guide, really is not as good as the 1960s' recordings, but is serviceable. It may be quite a while before we get a Zoo better than this one.

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