Great Operatic Arias: Gerald Finley
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Leading baritone and dramatic interpreter of his generation, Gerald Finley is an artist who sets alight the stage and delights the ear, whatever the role he portrays.
On this his first arias disc, and first for Opera in English, he explores a broad range of repertory: old favourites, hidden treasures and roles which he himself has created, among them J.Robert Oppenheimer in John Adams's Doctor Atomic and Harry Heegan in Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie.
English National Opera director, Edward Gardner offers a great understanding of Opera in English and here conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra in his debut on Chandos.
"In the earliest pieces composed and featured in this collection, the duet from Mozart's Don Giovanni and an aria from Weber's Euryanthe, Finley shows his characteristic ability to inhabit a role, so that he sings and acts with his voice as one. In both excerpts Finley communicates urgency and emotions that suggest a complexity of character. Lysiart's aria from Euryanthe begins with a declamatory style at which Finley excels, his diction matching the soul-searching questions of the character. As the piece increases in melodic interest Finley's approach gains intensity with full decorative force layered onto phrases such as "death and vengeance." At the close of this scene, the longest in the collection, one has gazed via Finley's interpretive singing into the conflicting sides of Lysiart's character, the forces of destruction ultimately winning the upper hand. The duet from Don Giovanni, "LÃ ci darem la mano," shared here with Lucy Crowe and performed as "There will my arms enfold you," illustrates well the rich legato, which is a hallmark of Finley's singing in such roles where it is appropriate. One can sense the voice performing the act of a seductive embrace as he allows the lines to flow with baritonal resonance... As an example of Finley's versatility in other repertoire we may look to Antonio's scena from Linda di Chamounix -- composed as an aria and duet sung together with the figure of Maddalena -- during which the father's fears for Linda are expressed. In the introductory aria Finley demonstrates a mastery of bel canto singing in his ideal combination of broad legato and carefully placed decorative melismas on key words such as "altar" and "father." The accompanying duet shared with Anne Marie Gibbons illustrates Finley's skill at participating in a vocal line with an emphasis on expressive ensemble singing. The remaining selections in this cd are well chosen and give indication of Finley's potential future projects for both operatic stage and recording." -Salvatore Calomino -- Opera Today: May 20, 2010 - http://www.operatoday.com/content/2010/05/gerald_finley_b.php
Born in Canada fifty years ago Gerald Finley has enjoyed a career on both sides of the Atlantic. Mozart has played an important part for him but he has also ventured into contemporary repertoire, and two roles that he created are also represented on this recital, making it a bit more than the usual run-through of a dozen standard arias. Moreover he chose several other rarities to show off his versatility. The aria from Tchaikovsky's Iolanta isn't everyday fare, nor is - even less in fact - Lysiart's aria from Weber's Euryanthe. These two items bring the recital off to a successful start; the former intense with highly strung Slavonic sentiment, the latter powerful but also meltingly beautiful. This testing aria is sung with clean attack and admirably assured runs. I admired Tom Krause in the recent reissue of the, as far as I know, only available complete recording of the work, and Finley runs him close. It's a pity Euryanthe is so notoriously difficult to stage, due to a more or less impossible libretto, since it is filled with inspired music.
In Doctor Atomic we recognize John Adams' very personal rhythmic minimalism, well known from Nixon in China but more varied here. The opera was premiered in 2005 with Gerald Finley singing the central character Oppenheimer. Sometimes labelled as bass-baritone he has an easy top register, where the lyrical beauty of tone is rather reminiscent of Thomas Hampson.
He sings Iago's Credo with face and conviction, and with such warmth that one feels the character is just perplexed at his own evil. Wolfram's two songs from TannhÃ¤user are warm and lyrical, Finley lightening his voice - but expressive and keen with words. The well known Song to the evening star is beautiful and restrained - not just another showpiece.
He is a seductive though initially rather aggressive Don Giovanni and Lucy Crowe is an excellent Zerlina. The jump to Mark-Anthony Turnage The Silver Tassie is long, in time as well as in style, and this is another of his creator's records. Fascinating music and glorious singing. So is, by and large, the Toreador song from Carmen, where his marrowy low notes reveal a healthy bass register. Rhythms are springy but the part seems to stretch his voice to the limits - or maybe he is just over-acting.
I wouldn't have thought him a natural Hans Sachs but he manages surprisingly well with Verachtet mir die Meister nicht, as it is known in the original. His diction is excellent and it is well sung but one ideally wants a darker timbre. Here as well as in the Carmen aria the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir are really splendid.
The aria from Linda di Chamounix is another rarity, where my benchmark reading is that by Renato Bruson. Finley sings it very well but lacks the roundness of tone and seamless legato of his predecessor. Anne-Marie Gibbons assists him well. Scarpia in Finley's impersonation is not the snarling animal of certain readings but a more civilized nobleman with understatement - just as horrifying, in fact. The concluding lollipop Some enchanted evening, comes as a striking contrast to Puccini's Chief of Police and here he challenges even Bryn Terfel with a lovely final pianissimo.
Edward Gardner, since 2007 Music Director of the ENO, has had a lot of rave reviews lately, and he lives up to his reputation. As always with these Chandos issues production values are high: excellent sound, a fine essay by John Steane - personal in expression and deeply knowledgeable - artists' profiles and session photos. In short: another highly desirable issue in this ever-growing series Opera in English - a joint venture with the Peter Moores Foundation. -- MusicWeb International, GÃ¶ran Forsling
Chandos's newest entry in its "Opera in English" series features Gerald Finley in a substantive program of both familiar and lesser-known arias and ensembles sung in English translation. It would be hard to imagine a more attractive bass-baritone voice than Finley's, and his vocal gifts combined with his musical and dramatic acumen make these performances a delight. Included here are two arias from roles that Finley himself created (Oppenheimer from Doctor Atomic and Harryfrom The Silver Tassie, both originally written in English), as well as some rarities such as Lysiart's aria from Weber's Euryanthe and Robert's aria from Tchaikovsky's one-act opera Iolanta. All of these are superbly sung, as is the recital's finale, "Some Enchanted Evening," from Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Somewhat less successful are the finale from Wagner's Die Meistersinger and Iago's aria from Verdi's Otello; Finley's voice is not yet quite so rich as one might want for the former,nor so powerful and steely as required for the latter.
Throughout the disc, Finley's diction is impeccably intelligible without being fussy -- no small feat considering the wide vocal range encompassed by these works. Only rarely do his text-articulation choices fail to serve the vocal line as the composer originally conceived. One such moment occurs during Wolfram's aria from Act III of TannhÃ¤user, "Look down, o gentle evening star"(better known as "O du mein holder Abendstern"). In the middle of the climactic ascending phrase, "far from this world to heaven ascending," Finley adds a lift after "world" that robs the line of its flow and creates an awkward, clunky rhythmic moment between the voice and the harp. This selection is also the only one in which the singer's pitch tends to sag -- ever so slightly, yet noticeably.
The London Philharmonic Orchestra plays with precision under conductor Edward Gardner, and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir provides excellent support, particularly in the Meistersinger excerpt. Chandos's recording captures a myriad of subtle details found in the colorful orchestral textures. Occasionally the singer is overpowered by this luscious wall of instrumental sound, such as on the final high notes in the arias from Iolanta and Otello, but in general the balance is well judged.
The only potential stumbling block to listeners will be the English translations, which vary from adequate to uninspired. Yes, it is lovely to know exactly -- make that approximately -- what is being sung at all times without a libretto in hand, but the translations pale in comparison to the power and subtlety inherent in the original texts. Regardless, Finley's accomplishment with this album is impressive. Buy it and hope that this artist will have a future opportunity to record some of these works in their original languages. -DEREK GRETEN-HARRISON -- Opera News- July, 2010
Distinguished singers are periodically tapped by England's Peter Moores Foundation for the deluxe treatment: A disc of operatic scenes with orchestra, chorus, and soloists to fill out smaller roles. The catch: Everything must be sung in English. Baritone Gerald Finley, now at the peak of his career (and giving a Philadelphia Chamber Music Society recital at 8 p.m. Wednesday), lets his broad-reaching musical interests run wide - with almost as many minuses as pluses, though never obscuring his considerable vocal charisma. The big news is Doctor Atomic's "Batter My Heart," from his signature role of Robert Oppenheimer. Though he's reasonably convincing in excerpts of roles he's not likely to sing onstage soon - Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, Scarpia in Tosca, and Iago in Otello - his voice is still too light, and his personality never fully inhabits more malevolent moments. Surprising successes include an elegantly sung "Toreador Song" from Carmen, a lovely, heartfelt "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific, and articulate, earnest Tannhauser excerpts. English translations have an odd impact on the music: An aria from Tchaikovsky's Iolanta sounds like Franz Lehar (not a bad thing), though in the seductive duet "Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni, "Let's go" just isn't a very poetic substitute for "Andiamo." -- Philadelphia Inquirer, David Patrick Stearns, March 7, 2010
Gerald Finley presents a collection of great baritone arias in English in this week's Full Rotation. Chandos Records' extensive "Opera in English" series is built on a simple premise: that opera gains accessibility and impact when sung in the language of its audience. This latest release by Canadian baritone Gerald Finley makes that case very effectively. He includes a large cross-section of characters ranging from the good-hearted Hans Sachs of Wagner's Meistersinger von Nürnberg to villains like Iago in Verdi's Otello and Baron Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca to more ambiguous characters like Doctor Oppenheimer in John Adams's Doctor Atomic. Finley may be ideally suited for opera sung in English. Born in Montreal and based in England, he first made his name in the 1990s as a Mozart baritone, in roles such as Papageno, Figaro, the Count and Don Giovanni. He has since created a number of English-language roles including the title character in Doctor Atomic, Adams' 2005 opera about the Manhattan Project. The riveting aria "Batter My Heart," based on a poem by Donne, comes at the end of a long and arduous first act, and shows him as a tragically flawed and Faustian figure. Finley also gives us a taste of his conflicted character in Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie, about a young Irish soldier in 1915 who just before returning to the Western front wins a soccer trophy, the Silver Tassie. Other highlights include a villainous Lysiart in Weber's Euryanthe, Wolfram's Act 3 aria from Tannhäuser and the Toreador's Song from Carmen. The English texts here help clarify but rarely distract from the music. Rounding out the collection, Finley brings some Broadway flair to "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific. The London Philharmonic under Edward Gardner provides sensitive support throughout. -- 105.9 FM WQXR, March 13, 2010
I should mention also that Finley has a new CD of opera arias--Mozart, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and John Adams ("Batter My Heart," from "Doctor Atomic")--on the Chandos label. The catch is that Finley sings everything in English; the disk is part of Chandos's Opera in English series. Some may flinch at the translations--"Verachtet mir die Meister nicht," from "Meistersinger," becomes "Do not disdain our Masters thus"--but the selections show the full range and richness of Finley's voice. As a Musical Criticism interview reveals, he is eager to branch out into Verdi and Wagner, and will sing the mighty role of Hans Sachs at Glyndebourne next year. -- The New Yorker, Alex Ross, March 19, 2010
The pieces sung by baritone Gerald Finley for a new "Opera in English" CD from Chandos are performed all the time, and very well, too. And that is a problem for this well-sung, well-recorded disc. The reason is that English translation of opera is perhaps justifiable in the context of making it possible for an audience to follow the story, and the interplay of characters, without knowing a work's original language. But on a 13-track CD of some of opera's greatest hits - with only three pieces originally written in English - the translations are much harder to accept. It takes the pleasure out of Mozart's Là ci darem la mano to render it as "There will my arms enfold you" (librettist Lorenzo da Ponte was writing about hands, not arms, in any case). Bizet's Toreador, en garde - which uses a phrase that never needs translation - is just plain silly as "Toreador, be ready." And it is hard to keep from giggling inappropriately when an aria from Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg comes out as "Do not disdain our Masters thus." Finley has a pleasant voice - not especially brilliant, not exceptionally strong, but well modulated, sensitive to the nuances of different composers' styles, and powerful enough to handle Puccini, Tchaikovsky and Verdi as well as Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Adams and the (unfortunately inevitable) "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific. So this CD will be a treat for Finley fans, and on that basis gets a (+++) rating. But hearing arias from Euryanthe and Linda di Chamounix in English is, at best, an acquired taste. -- Infodad.com, March 18, 2010
Top customer reviews
The sound recording is first rate, and there are full texts.
It is rather sad that Sir Peter Moores and Chandos have discontinued the series..
If you can get past the language issue, Finley clearly deserves his international standing. Oppenheimer's most lyrical aria from Dr. Atomic, "Batter my heart," set to Donne's sonnet, could hardly be better. For rarities we get a selection form Euryanthe, Londa di Chamounix, and (rarer still) Turnage's The Silver Tassie -- although modern, this last is quite melodious and touching. Every once in a while a translated text works -- that's the case with Wolfram's Ode to the Evening Star from Tannhauser, which Finley sings feelingly. As a crossover tidbit there's "Some Enchanted Evening," Originally meant for a bass but appealing in Finley's rendition. I find is voice more beautiful than those of is contemporaries in the UK, Christopher Maltman and Simon Keenlyside, but after an hour of arias, one does notice a certainly lack of fire and personality in the delivery. Even so, an enjoyable album.
Here's the program:
Batter My Heart (from Doctor Atomic)
Votre toast je peux vous le rendre 'Toreador Song' (from Carmen)
You're Most Kind, and in Return I Toast You
Ambo Nati Questa Valle (from Linda di Chamounix)
In This Valley We Shared Our Childhood
Anne-Marie Gibbons (Maddalena)
La ci darem la mano (from Don Giovanni)
There Will My Arms Enfold You
Lucy Crowe (Zerlina)
Tre sbirri...Una carozza...Presto 'Te Deum' (from Tosca)
Three Agents, Quick As You Can, Now
Matthew Long (Spoletta), Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Some Enchanted Evening (from South Pacific)
Oh Bring to Me a Pint of Wine (from The Silver Tassie)
Vanne, la tua meta gia vedo...Credo in un Dio crudel (from Otello)
Take it...Yes, I Believe in God
Verachtet mir die Meister nicht (from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
Do Not Disdain Our Masters Thus
O du, mein holder Abendstern (from Tannhäuser)
Look Down, O Gentle Evening Star
Wo berg ich mich? (from Euryanthe)