Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sunday Classics: More of Carmen and Don José, plus Sunday Classics revisits G&S's "The Sorcerer"


The final scene of Carmen with Elena Garança (Carmen) and Roberto Alagna (Don José), directed by Richard Eyre and conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, at the Met in September 2010

by Ken

Okay, here's the deal. I led readers to believe, in Friday night's preview ("'Between us, everything is finished' (Carmen)") that today we would "take (I hope) a fairly close listen to the Carmen-José scene" that concludes Carmen. I really did hope, but it's not going to happen. Meanwhile, up above we've got the whole thing, every damned note, and we'll have another performance -- in English! -- below.

As usually happens when it comes to musical matters that really matter to me, and trying to explain why they matter, I'm having a devil of a time, and I really don't want to give up without a fight. Yesterday when I got home from a New York Transit Museum tour of the 1904 South 6th Street subway power substation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (still in service, though not as originally constructed), I got a little more work done on Carmen, but then I had to brace myself for the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players' revival -- after ten years! -- of The Sorcerer, and I was faced with staying up all night to do some sort of slapdash job before heading off for my Wolfe Walkers tour of the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park with Justin Ferate this morning. (At least I didn't have to travel far for that one!) Also, it was really cold in my apartment. In that discouraged state, I made the executive decision that for once no, I didn't feel like doing that. So I'm not going to.


here's the whole of the Final Scene from the 1946 Hollywood Bowl English-language performance -- conducted by Leopold Stokowski, no less! -- we sampled Friday night.

BIZET: Carmen: Act IV, Final Scene

[in English] Winifred Heidt (ms), Carmen; Ramón Vinay (t), Don José; Hollywood Bowl Chorus and Symphony Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski, cond. Live performance, July 11, 1946


calls for doing something else next week, and then the following week finishing up with Carmen. Anyone who finds this unacceptable can contact the Sales Dept. for a full refund.

Meanwhile, here is the series so far.

"'And long live the music that falls on us from heaven' (Carmen)" (11/11)
[Preview: "'If you don't love me, I love you, and if I love you, watch out' -- meet La Carmencita" (11/9)]

"All the major players in Carmen gather outside the bullfighting arena in Seville" (11/25)
[Preview: "Enter the Toreador" (11/23)]

[Preview: "'Between us, everything is finished' (Carmen)" (11/30)]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


I confess that the decision not to try to finish the Carmen series last night had a lot to do with giving myself a shot at enjoying the NYGASP Sorcerer performance, and I did -- give myself a shot, that is. I had bought my ticket as soon as they went on sale, and snagged myself what looked online like a prime seat: smack in the middle of the front row of the balcony of the John Jay College. I will spare you the horror of getting to the seat, having thoughtlessly arrived just minutes before curtain (including the loathsome cow on the aisle slightly closer to my seat, who actually refused to let me through, claiming that there was no empty seat, and the empty seat that wasn't would be closer to the other side -- wrong both times; if it had been up to me, she would have been killed), and even more the horror of trying to sit in what would have been a torture chamber of a seat (as cramped as any seat I can recall being subjected to) even for a person not afflicted with egregiousl arthritic knees for the hour and a quarter of Act I. What I should have done was plop myself down in one of the empty rows farther up in the balcony (which has only five rows to begin with), which is what I did at intermission after regaining enough locomotive powers to (almost literally) crawl up the stairs.

By NYGASP staging standards it was a refreshingly straightforward show, especially if you're already (all too) used to the insistence of artistic director Albert Bergeret, who directs as well as conducts, on keeping every performer in constant choreographic motion every moment he/she is onstage. The one set of truly unfortunate moments came in Act II, when the singer impersonating the vicar, Dr. Daly, had to not only pretend to play the flageolet solos that punctuate his wonderful song about all the maidens in the village being "engaged to So-and-so" but had to do a little dance, a different one each time, while pretend-playing. It defied all logic, human as well as musical and dramatic -- but that's our Albert.

Anyway, how often does one get a chance to be in the same theater as The Sorcerer? And the show's good music is quite wonderful indeed. I'm pleasantly surprised to see how extensively I went through this back in January 2011 in a pair of previews ("'Ring forth, ye bells' -- Celebrating G&S's The Sorcerer" and "'Sprites of earth and air, fiends of flame and fire' -- meet the Sorcerer") and the main post, "The Sorcerer: 'Everyone's engaged to So-and-so'." Even for the little medley I had thought to offer today -- say, the Overture, Dr. Daly's two wonderful songs, and the Act II quintet, "I rejoice that it's decided," in which young Alexis Pointdextre "rejoices" in the now-settled and highly unexpected marriage plans of his father, Sir Marmaduke, and the village pew opener Mrs. Partlet -- I find it makes more sense just to refer you to the music portion of the 2011 main post.

Well, maybe we'll just hear the Overture and to Dr. Daly's haunting Act I ballad. And if you do listen to the Overture -- especially in the swaggering Godfrey performance, one of my favorite recorded performances of anything (Sir Malcolm Sargent's Sorcerer Overture, you'll note, is very different) -- you may be pleased to know that the NYGASP orchestral brasses were in suitably brassy fettle. With regard to Dr. Daly's ballad, along with the three official D'Oyly Carte recordings (all conducted, you'll note, by Godfrey, over a 33-year span) for reasons perhaps at least as much nostalgic as artistic I'm including the live performance by the then-57-year-old Kenneth Sandford, one of my favorite G&S performers.

GILBERT AND SULLIVAN: The Sorcerer: Overture

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded 1966

Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Alexander Faris, cond. Nimbus, recorded July 6-7, 1986

Pro Arte Orchestra, Sir Malcolm Sargent, cond. EMI, recorded 1961

The Sorcerer: No. 3, Act I, Recitative and Ballad, Dr. Daly, "The air is charged with amatory numbers" . . . "Time was when love and I were well acquainted"
The air is charged with amatory numbers—
soft madrigals, and dreamy lovers' lays.
Peace, peace, old heart! Why waken from its slumbers
the aching memory of the old, old days?
Time was when Love and I were well acquainted.
Time was when we walked ever hand in hand.
A saintly youth, with worldly thought untainted,
none better-loved than I in all the land!
Time was, when maidens of the noblest station,
forsaking even military men,
would gaze upon me, rapt in adoration--
Ah me, I was a fair young curate then!

Had I a headache? Sighed the maids assembled.
Had I a cold? Welled forth the silent tear.
Did I look pale? Then half a parish trembled;
and when I coughed all thought the end was near!
I had no care--no jealous doubts hung o'er me--
for I was loved beyond all other men.
Fled gilded dukes and belted earls before me.
Ah me, I was a pale young curate them!

Alan Styler (b), Dr. Daly; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded 1966

Jeffrey Skitch (b), Dr. Daly; New Symphony Orchestra of London, Isidore Godfrey, cond. Decca, recorded 1953

Leslie Rands (b), Dr. Daly; orchestra, Isidore Godfrey, cond. EMI, recorded 1933

Kenneth Sandford (b), Dr. Daly; D'Oyly Carte Opera Orchestra. From The Last Night of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, recorded live, Feb. 27, 1982

SORCERER RECORDING NOTE: I see that dependable digital transferrer F. Reeder has done a digital transfer of the whole of the 1953 D'Oyly Carte Opera Company recording of The Sorcerer, not to be be confused with the 1966 stereo remake also conducted by the great Isidore Godfrey, but still a solid performance -- with splendid performances by Peter Pratt as John Wellington Wells (the tradesmanlike Sorcerer!), Ann Drummond-Grant as Lady Sangazure, and Jeffrey Skitch (whom we just heard) as Dr. Daly. The transfer has each act an MP3 file.

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