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Power of Love

Alan Blyth

For all his professional life, Richard Bonynge has been a huge enthusiast for out-of-the-way and/or neglected music of the 19 century. Further evidence of that enthusiasm is to be found on this entertaining CD of airs by, for the most part, Balfe, Wallace and Sullivan, music once hugely popular in Victorian Britain. While I can't imagine opera-house managers leaping to revive the operas from which these arias are taken, it is pleasant - sometimes more than that - to hear music that falls so easily on the ear, especially when it is performed, as here by Bonynge and Deborah Riedel, with such skill and dedication. Balfe, even more Sullivan, could rise above the conventions of their time, and invest pieces for their soprano heroines with true feeling. But these moments tend to be the exception rather than the rule, so that by the end of a long programme a sense of double entendu cannot be avoided at least by the reviewer: others will benefit by listening to only two or three items at a time. Bonynge recorded repertory similar to this at one time or another with his wife, Dame Joan Sutherland, as interpreter, so it is hardly surprising to find similarities between her and Deborah Riedel in terms of both vocal timbre and technical finesse. Although Riedel, whom we know in this country for her several notable operatic assumptions, may not quite be her predecessor's equal in coloratura, she surpasses her in terms of verbal articulation, a most important factor in this field. Bonynge and his excellent band provide sympathetic support.