BBC Music Magazine - - Opera -

Ray­mond and Agnes

Mark Mil­hofer, Ma­jella Cul­lagh, An­drew Greenan; Ret­ro­spect Opera Cho­rus; Royal Bal­let Sin­fo­nia/ Richard Bonynge

Ret­ro­spect Opera RO005

148:36 mins (2 discs)

Now largely for­got­ten, Ed­ward Loder (1813-65) was a prom­i­nent fig­ure in mid-19th cen­tury English opera. With his nat­u­ral tal­ents and a solid German train­ing, he evolved good technical skills and his best mu­sic re­veals a gen­uine dra­matic in­stinct. For sev­eral ex­perts, his mag­num opus Ray­mond and Agnes (1855) – a res­o­lutely Gothic opera drawn from el­e­ments in Matthew Lewis’s once cel­e­brated novel in that tra­di­tion, The Monk (1796) – is the finest English opera of its pe­riod. Yet how­ever wor­thy its in­ten­tions, this first com­plete record­ing dis­ap­points. The prin­ci­pal per­for­mances all reach a de­cent stan­dard, but Richard Bonynge’s con­duct­ing could do with more elec­tric­ity and the over­all qual­ity is vari­able. The sound – the piece was recorded in a church – could also be clearer. The re­sult is some­thing less than an ideal re­launch. But many of the prob­lems are in­her­ent in the piece it­self. Edi­tor Va­lerie Lang­field’s note tells us that a few small changes have been made to the li­bretto by Ed­ward Fitzball ‘in the in­ter­ests of com­pre­hen­si­bil­ity’, but one might think that a more thor­ough re­write of such an awk­wardly phrased text is per­haps the most re­al­is­tic so­lu­tion; the orig­i­nal is a se­ri­ous li­a­bil­ity on sev­eral fronts.

With the clear in­flu­ence of

We­ber, Loder’s mu­sic is cer­tainly much the best el­e­ment, but quite a lot of it falls back into the lim­ited world of the mu­sic-shop bal­lad – though there are un­doubt­edly sec­tions of finer and more se­ri­ous cast, start­ing with a more than re­spectable over­ture. Ge­orge Hall PER­FOR­MANCE RECORD­ING

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