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<<<  <<  -- 4 --  George Balcombe    ILLUSION AND INTRIGUE


London opera and drama made fortunes from audiences addicted to artifice, not only in theatres but in their own lives. Although operatic productions were more extravagant and therefore more expensive than their drama equivalent in playhouses, nevertheless they both existed in the same raucous world of mid-1700s London.

Emma Curtis's thesis about society prizing 'illusion and intrigue above all' shows that opera was neither eccentric nor remote from lifestyles current at the time.

She makes it clear to us that, after all, the absurdities of plot and of casting in Handel's Italian operas were not exaggerations by sensation-seeking composers and impressarios but reflections of what were, at the time, normal and exactly what audiences expected and got.

Indeed, we should thank Emma Curtis for relieving any lingering Freudian anxieties we may suffer over such things as a castrato singing the title role in Handel's Julio Cesare or generals returning from wars and sounding more like their mothers than themselves.

Songbook Calliope's 400 engraved plates of theatre music eventually closed page after page and fell silent. But quite by chance in 2006, Curtis reopened songbook Calliope. And now, thanks to her, those charming ghosts, artifice and all, sing and play for us as they did for packed theatres 270 years ago [listen -- CD2 track 27, 0:00-1:01].

The Frolick exude their Baroque charms to accompany Emma Curtis, whose alto voice admirably suits the songs' nymphs and shepherds, especially with her low register with its unusual rasping sound. Many of the songs, which are all in English, have that indefinable 'English' sound. It wasn't the cowpat sound of old modal Vaughan-Williams (as old serial Elisabeth Lutyens dismissed his music) but the special sound of eighteenth century English music.

Copyright © 6 May 2007 George Balcombe, London UK


Calliope - English Songbooks of the 1700s

AV2101 DDD Stereo FIRST RELEASE (2 CDs) 73'26"/73'33" - 146'59" 2006 Inkling Records Ltd

The Frolick: Emma Curtis, contralto; Andrew Maginley, director, baroque lute, baroque guitar, theorbo; Markus Möllenbeck, baroque cello; Muriel Bardon, baroque violin; Giovanni Pessi, baroque harp; Annie Laflamme, transverse flute; Natia Gvilava, baroque violin; Martin Lynch, drum

Anon: Cupid and Venus; Henry Purcell: Celia has a thousand Charms; Henry Carey: The Supplication; Anon (Thomas Phillips): A New Song; George Frederick Handel: A Dialogue between Punch and Columbine; Henry Holcombe: The Forsaken Nymph; Handel: A favourite Aire in Ariadne; John Frederick Lampe: The Coquet; Francesco Geminiani: Know, Madam, I never was born; Anon: The Country Girl's Farewel; Handel: Bird of May (Alcina); John Ernest Galliard: The Early Horn; George Monro: 'Twas on a River's verdant side; Giovanni Battista Pescetti: Stella darling of the Muses; Holcombe: The Syren of the Stage; Carey: Sad Musidora; John Frederick Lampe: The Dying Nymph; Anon (J Crawford): Down the Burn Davie; Thomas Arne: The Miller of Mansfield; Sir John Vanbrugh: The Coquet; Anon: The Forsaken Maid; Anon: On Zelinda; Maurice Green: The Fly; David Digard: My Jolly Companion; Lampe: Solitary Lover; Galliard: Oft on the Troubled Ocean; Handel: The Melancholy Nymph; Carey: The Lady's Lamentation for the Loss of Senesino; Lampe: The Wand'ring Lover; Anon: Linco's Advice to Damon; Carey: Gen'rous Love; Carey: The Midsummer Wish; Seignr Anglosini: A New Cantata; Anon: The Apology; Allan Ramsay: Corn Riggs are Bonny; Carey: A Pastoral; Carey: The Maid's Husband; Lampe: The Plain Dealer; David Digard: The Generous Confession; Anon: The Despairing Lover; Carey: Stand by! Clear the way!; Green: True Love; Jonathan Martin: The Address to Sleep; Henry Burgess: England's Lamentation for the Loss of Farinelli; Lampe: On Gallant Moor of Moorhall; Anon: Dumbarton's Drums; Carey: A Song; Lampe: The Maid's Request; William Boyce: The Modest Petition; Green: The Flea; Anon - possibly Bowman/Bowman: The Thirsty Toper; Arcangelo Corelli: The Praise of Bacchus



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