, January 2009
Along with Balfe’s Bohemian Girl and Benedict’s Lily of Killarney, Wallace’s Maritana marked a breakthrough in opera in Britain, and it held the stage for over 50 years, This lively recording, with Irish artists celebrating this 19th-century Irish composer, helps to explain the work’s attractions, regularly reminding the modern listener of Gilbert and Sullivan. The big difference is that where G & S present a parody of grand opera, with tongue firmly in cheek, Wallace is intensely serious, with the big melodramatic moments quickly becoming unintentionally comic. To compound the similarly with G & S, the story, like that of the Yeomen of the Guard, depends on the heroine, by contract, marrying a man condemned to death who then escapes his punishment. What matters is that there are many more good tunes than that of the still-remembered aria for the heroine, Scenes that are Brightest, and the ensembles in this winning performance are always fresh and lively. The soloist too all have voices which focus cleanly, even if they are not specially distinctive. The recording is bright and forwardly balanced, with words crystal clear. Worth investigating as a period piece.