This compilation of some of the great moments in opera came about from the ABC Classic FM segment of the same name and its presenter, Emma Ayres, who through her own inimitable wit seeks to “explain’ or help listeners through the complexities of operatic plots. Ayres reveals a unique take on the onstage antics of stratospheric sopranos and tight-trousered tenors and reduces plot lines into everyday language.
Read the liner notes and you will be amazed at Ms Ayres’s ability to interpret the stories of Nabucco, Rusalka, Lucrezia Borgia, Madama Butterfly, Faust, Lakme, La Gioconda, Candide, Don Giovanni, Rinaldo, Turandot, The Girl of the Golden West, Juditha Triumphans or South Pacific in the most readable way: a bit like Pogue and Speck’sOpera for Dummies or John Cargher’s very well-known How to Enjoy Opera Without Really Trying.
There are 16 tracks of various artists chosen here for their stellar performances. Some of my most favourite singers are included here. How could anyone go by Anna Netrebko’s Song to the Moon, Giacomo Aragall’s T’amo qual dama un angelo, Luciano Pavarotti’s Parmi veder le lagrime, Joan Sutherland’s Jewel Song, CeciliaBartoli’sLascia, ch’io pianga and Cheryl Barker’s Un bel di,
Duets and ensembles also feature, no finer than the Act 1 duet between Don Giovanni and Zerlina La ci darem la mano (Danielle de Niese and Bryn Terfel) and of course the Flower Duet from Lakme (Glenys Fowles and Heather Begg). Of Don Giovanni duet, Ms Ayres writes: “ The sexual escapades of Mozart’s Don Giovanni make The Rolling Stones look like a cloister of Trappist monks.” Listening to FM at breakfast time must cause many an opera-lover spluttering over their cereal with this hilarious commentary.
Emma Matthews’s Glitter and be Gay (Bernstein’s Candide) shows the coloratura skills of this fine Australian soprano. The disc ends with Bryn Terfel’s beautiful Some Enchanted Evening (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific).
Orchestra included here are the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, The Queensland Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, London Symphony, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and The Academy of Ancient Music, with some of the supreme conductors at the helm, such as Richard Bonynge, the late Charles Mackerras, Christopher Hogwood, Herbert von Karajan and Zubin Mehta.
For a quick bite size of opera, you can’t go by Tears on Toast. It will definitely wet your appetite for more.
(Just a pity that when the disc is inputted to itunes, the spelling of Donizetti, Bernstein and even Mozart are incorrect!)