Deborah Riedel and Richard Bonynge issued a disc in 2001 of arias from British operas by Balfe, Sullivan and Wallace. (That disc, entitled The Power of Love, seems to have escaped notice by Fanfare, but received highly favourable reviews elsewhere.) The current disc presents a wide-ranging selection of songs and arias in English, Italian and French by composers both well known and almost completely forgotten. Some of these composers, such as Stephen Storace, friend of Mozart and brother of Nancy Storace, the first Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, have been nothing more than names in history to me, while others, such as the Portuguese Portugallo and the Italian Crescentini, were completely unknown to me.
Even for those composers who are more familiar, the listener is unlikely to know more than a few of the selections on this disc. The program is varied and the music … is well worth hearing. The title song has been running in my head for days.
Australian soprano Riedel began her singing career as a mezzo, but Bonynge and Riedel’s agent questioned her orientation and guided her to the soprano repertoire. She obviously enjoys performing the music on this disc. She seems at times to emulate the period-practice crowd, especially in the English ballad selections, by singing with little or no vibrato, but she allows more vocal colour in the selections in Italian and French … Bonynge and the Arcadia Lane Orchestra provide excellent support.
Sadly, this recording can also stand as a memorial for Riedel, who died of breast cancer in January 2009 at the age of 50. It is sad that there will be no further recordings of vocal rarities from these forces. The booklet is a model that other recording companies should emulate, will full notes on the composers and music by Bonynge and texts with translations where necessary. Highly recommended.