Carmen Patricia Johnson
Don José Donald Smith
Escamillo Raimund Herincx
Micaela Elizabeth Robson
Sadlers Wells Opera Chorus
Sadlers Wells Opera Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Recorded in October 1961 in No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 5850082
Oedipus Rex Opera-oratorio in two acts
Oedipus Ronald Dowd
Creon / Messenger Raimund Herincx
Tiresias Harold Blackburn
Jocasta Patricia Johnson
Shepherd Alberto Remedios
Speaker Sir Ralph Richardson
Sadlers Wells Opera Chorus (men)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis
Music recorded in Kingsway Hall, London in November 1961; Narration taped in Abbey Road, July 1962
CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 5850112
CD No: See below Duration: Reviewed: June 2003
Colin Davis & Sadlers Wells Classics for Pleasure
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
These are but two of a plethora of Sadlers Wells releases which Classics for Pleasure has just issued. Overall they will, I suspect, be of primary interest to those who owned the original LPs or attended the shows.
The point of this review is the conductor. Colin Davis, pre-Royal Opera House and pre-knighthood, was in charge of matters musical at Sadlers Wells during the first half of the sixties. The Carmen excerpts fine in terms of extraction until we are left in mid-air during Act 3! begin with a swaggering and articulate account of the Prelude, including a few rhetorical emphases that today the just-as-vital Sir Colin might disown!
The lack of French loses the music its sensuality. The singing-style rolled Rs, exaggerated word-play, moments precious, stagey and hammy; add in some intonation problems and vibrato excess displays a certain age while raising a smile and a grimace! Showing how it can be done is Raimund Herincx he doesnt force dynamics and brings equilibrium of tone. He also does his best to make the translation seem less ill-fitting than it is.
Colin Daviss conducting stands out his future then assured and measured unequivocally over four decades. He conducts with affection and tenacity even if one doesnt know who is at the helm, its not difficult to hear a force of personality, someone who insists on particular things being done. For Davis and Herincx, this CD is worth a listen.
Oedipus Rex is the prize, a veritable bargain a performance to rank with the best and not, this time, compromised by a change of language: the music is sung in Latin, a language that Stravinsky described as turned to stone. Ralph Richardsons narration has its risible moments, yet, accent and enunciation aside, he brings his theatrical instincts to bear in a way that can only grip the listener and plunge us straight into the drama.
Colin Davis has an instinctive feel for music-theatre, and with a recording vivid and weighty, this really is a finely judged rendition. The mens chorus is focussed, the instrumental lines beautifully clear (not least piano and timpani), and the soloists are integrated without being denied their role-play. Ronald Dowd, sure of line, is a demonstrative Oedipus, and the whole cast is excellent, Raimund Herincx once more, and Patricia Johnson seems more at home as Jocasta than as Carmen.
Incisively conducted, Davis allies sentiment, sentience and dramatic impact; he has the measure of Oedipuss monumentality and of the parts that make up that sum. At CFPs budget price, there really is no need to hesitate.