Leave it to musicologist-conductor Richard Bonynge to unearth 18 obscure pleasantries from 19th Century British operas. The composers’ names have a certain ring of familiarity: Michael Balfe, Vincent Wallace, and Sir Arthur Sullivan. Totally forgotten is Michael Philip Faraday. How many have even heard of the operas’ titles? Four by Wallace: The Amber Witch, Love’s Triumph, Lurline (2 arias), and Maritana (2 arias). Six are by Balfe: The Puritan’s Daughter, The Rose of Castille, Satanella (2 arias), The Siege of Rochelle, The Maid of Artois (2 arias), and Il Talismano.
Serious Sullivan, which sounds very much like Unserious Sullivan, is represented by two arias, one each from Ivanhoe and The Rose of Persia. Poor Faraday is represented only by the aria, “Little Princess, Look Up!” from his Amasis.
Most of these operas were quite popular when new. It is easy listening for such sentimental, charming melodies of love gone wrong and love gone right.
Riedel exudes grace and charm; she’s just the right interpreter for these simple pieces. Bonynge accompanies with delicacy, understanding, and full commitment. He also has written a short introduction to the project. Paul Westcott has written excellent introductions to the composers and the arias. There are English texts of the arias and 25 period lithographs from the Bonynge Archive.