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Charles H Parsons
American Record Guide, July 2011

Of the original cast only Varnay is heard here—in all her vocal splendor. Ribla is a vocal force as well. The music is quite lovely, fully supportive and suggestive of the drama. It’s a lovely addition to the modern repertoire and should be heard more often.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, March 2011

A now long forgotten name, Raffaello De Banfield was born in the north of England of mixed Austrian and Italian parents of some affluence. He received a high-profile musical education through to his twenty-seventh year that included Malipiero and Boulenger. He moved within the world of famous artistic names, his circle of friends included the playwright, Tennessee Williams, and it was his role as librettist that brought to the opera, Lord Byron’s Love Letter, more interest than the music. Not that the story was anything to excite, and it gave Banfield little in the way of action. It tells of the Spinster and The Old Woman living in poor circumstances in New Orleans, who will show, for a small payment, a love letter purported to be written by Lord Byron to the Old Woman. A woman tourist calls to see the letter, and her granddaughter, the Spinster, elaborates on the event when her great-grandmother met Byron in Greece. I suppose today Banfield would be described as a talented dilettante composer, his style not dissimilar to Samuel Barber. In one act, lasting around fifty minutes, it is tonal and lyric in content, but never finds melodic material of memorable quality. It received its world premiere in New Orleans in 1955 with the celebrated Wagnerian soprano, Astrid Varnay, in the role of The Old Woman. Taking the same part in the 1958 recording, she partners a familiar face at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the American soprano, Gertrude Ribla. In a name devised for this recording, the Academy Symphony Orchestra of Rome add colour to the score. Appearing briefly on the RCA Victor label, it has never been reissued until now. The sound is good, the CD completed by Ribla, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Eugene Ormandy performing three excerpts from Berg’s Wozzeck.

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