This CD succeeds in giving people new to opera (and I don't think it should be restricted to children) the chance to listen to first class recordings of well known and catchy arias, in English, from a selection of Operas. These are performed by the Budapest Concert Orchestra and a series of singers who succeed in performing the songs so that you can hear each word. The fact that they have been sung in English enables a listener to understand the lyrics, which goes a long way to helping one appreciate them. In particular Papageno's Song from the Magic Flute and the Doll Song from Tales of Hoffman really benefit from their translation which has been done sensitively by librettist Daniel Libman.

What sets this CD apart from many other compilations is the first class quality of both the orchestra and the individual singers. Often people who are new to opera or classical music are fobbed off with a poor recording or a mediocre interpretation, so unsurprisingly they fail to understand what other people rave about. This CD gives the listener the best possible chance to enjoy the arias. When you listen to the arias you realise clearly that the operas were popular partly because they contained songs that were so memorable. There are two arias on the selection where the words are difficult to understand, and one must resort to the accompanying lyrics. These were the Ride of the Valkyries and Ombra Mai Fù but in each case there were good reasons to include them: for the beauty of the music in the former, and the opportunity to showcase a counter-tenor voice, in this case the wonderful voice of Daniel Taylor, in the latter. For me, the music prizes go to Aline Kutan as Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, Brian Banion as Escamillo in the Toreador's Song from Carmen, and Michael Schade as Duke of Mantua in La Donna è Mobile from Rigoletto.

After fourteen arias with words in English, there are instrumental versions of four of those arias which provide the opportunity for listeners to sing along with the Orchestra in “karaoke” style, with the lyrics provided separately. Anyone wanting to start on Opera or trying to encourage a child to listen will find this CD a very useful tool indeed.

For an introduction to Opera for people of all ages click here.

Alison Karlin
2nd August 2008
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