Power of Love

Stephen Eddins
AllMusic Guide (US)
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With The Power of Love: British Opera Arias, Melba continues its brilliant strategy of promoting outstanding Australian artists by featuring them in attractive repertoire that’s available virtually nowhere else. In this case, soprano Deborah Riedel sings arias from obscure, if not completely unknown, nineteenth century British operas. The CD was the brainstorm of conductor Richard Bonynge, who leads the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, and who started collecting scores of this repertoire in his student days in London. Michael Balfe (1808-1870) and William Wallace (1812-1865) were the leading British opera composers of their day, and they’re strongly represented here, along with several little known arias by Arthur Sullivan, and one by the entirely forgotten Michael Faraday. Riedel’s voice is a pure pleasure, utterly secure with a creamy texture, a top that can float or ring without losing purity or focus, and dazzling coloratura. The real discovery among the composers is Wallace, whose music has an original, lyrical impulse that deftly illuminates and enlarges on the meaning of the text. His melodies have a Bellinian simplicity and sweetness, and an emotional directness that makes them recognizably related to British folk song. He is best known for Maritana, which was long a staple of the English repertoire, and the two arias recorded here are ravishing. Balfe’s music is well crafted, but more facile and less original, and is largely derivative of trends in Italian and French opera of the period. Bonynge’s accompaniments are lovingly executed, and Melba’s sound is clean and present.