Music and Vision homepage Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller


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A similar patter wit is found in the Tonio-Vittoria duet (Suart and the splendid Sally Burgess), which teeters intriguingly between West End and Broadway; their sentimental parting duet 'Over Here and over There', feels like a foretaste of Salad Days. There's a patch of unashamed pinching from Lehar's The Merry Widow in Teresa's heartwrenching 'Love will Find a Way' ('Whate'er befall I still recall that sunlit mountainside'). Needless to say, it works, and makes a reappearance to round off the evening. Arguably what you miss, apart from a sung hero (Baldassare the brigand is a bass spoken role) is more of the intervening chatter : it may be twaddly -- the ending certainly is -- but done deftly, the spoken text might add something.

Paradoxically three of the famed showstoppers -- 'Paradise for Two' ('If I only held the key to your heart'), the Act 2 duet for Teresa and Beppo; 'My Life is Love' (the early Beppo-Teresa duet with chorus); and the most famous hit of all, 'A bachelor gay', sung here by Maltman with simpering woodwind and ample female chorus, were not by Fraser-Simson at all, but were commissioned from James Tate, the brother of the opera singer Maggie (later Dame Maggie) Teyte. They import more of a music hall quality that it is marginally at odds with Fraser Simson's varied approach to operetta, though you can see why they caught on.

Tonio's 'I understood', which is by Fraser-Simson, strikes one as a much wittier, nattier piece of writing, both musically and verbally (Frederick Lonsdale wrote the book for Fraser-Simson; Harry Graham was the main lyricist). And it's made for Suart, whose mock-confidentiality, brilliant enunciation and hilarious, seemingly off-the-cuff rubato make this ('he didn't say he wouldn't and he didn't say he would, but ...I understood') the track to be treasured. The cello playing is an audial feast, and Corp's New London Orchestra brass team elsewhere is particularly rewarding. 'Fraser-Simson's was a modest talent ... used to maximum effect', suggests Andrew Lamb's useful and informative note : an understatement for this is a classic of its era.

Copyright © 23 June 2001 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK







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