The Prince Consort Ivanhoe (1989)

Richard Bourjo
Prince JohnDavid Blackwood
Sir Brian
    de Bois Guilbert
Ivor Klayman
Maurice de BracyWalter Anderson
    de Beaumanoir
Scott Cooper
Cedric the SaxonBruce Graham
    Knight of Ivanhoe
Alan Borthwick
Friar TuckScott Cooper
Isaac of YorkSimon Boothroyd
LocksleyBruce Graham
De Bracy's SquireGeorge McHollan
The Lady RowenaRachel Cowan
UlricaFrances McCafferty
RebeccaIrene Drummand

The Prince Consort Orchestra
The Prince Consort Chorus
Members of the G&S Society of Edinburgh
and the
Edinburgh Royal Choral Union
Conductor: David Lyle

Pearl SHE CDS 9615
Pearl SHE CDS 9615

This recording, the most ambitious of the Prince Consort's traversals of Sullivan's non-Gilbert operas, was greeted with great acclaim by the Sullivan community. At last, it seemed that the composer's only grand opera would receive the fair hearing it deserved. Unfortunately, this set calls forth only modified rapture. While it is gratifying that a professional recording of the work is finally available, the uneven singing and orchestral playing prevent many of the opera's charms from shining through. Many of the instrumental entrances are not together, the strings at times are out of tune, and several of the soloists are simply not equipped for such difficult music. With a professional recording due in early 2010, this one can no longer be seriously recommended.

A while after this review was posted, J. Derrick McClure posted on SavoyNet that he thought this recording ought to be given more credit, especially compared to the Beaufort Opera version:

Between the two available recordings of Ivanhoe, there is just no comparison and no contest: an atrocious recording of a poor performance, and a fine recording of a very good and in some respects excellent performance. If Ko-Ko tells us true we'll soon have a recording which will be to the Prince Consort version as the Prince Consort is to the Beaufort (that's rule of three), but that's by the way at the moment. The Beaufort version is not even "better than nothing": I found it some years ago in our library and my reaction on hearing it was utter horror: could this — this — be the masterpiece work which Sullivan had looked forward to writing all his life and on which he had expended so much effort? I conscientiously forced myself to listen to the record again and again, and eventually some slight awareness of the worth of the music began to filter through in spite of the recording and the performance; but a less committed admirer of Sullivan would, on hearing this as his first introduction to Ivanhoe, have dismissed the whole show out of hand after the first five minutes. After that, the PC recording was a revelation — obviously it wasn't the best possible, but it was very good; and it showed that what we were dealing with was a major and in some respects wonderful opera. And yet in the Discography, the B version gets far more space than the PC (though admittedly, a lot of that is devoted to the entertaining story of how the recording came to be made), and the detailed discussion and upbeat tone of the reviews is in strong contrast to the short and perfunctory damning with faint praise that the PC version gets. (And what is the meaning of the ridiculous comment that the PC soloists seem "unsure of their command of the English language"?) Giving the underdog a chance is one thing; but the complete lack of correspondence between the relative quality of the reviews and the relative quality of the recordings is peculiar to say the least.

(In response to the above, I pointed out that the Beaufort Opera recording gets more space on this site, simply because of the balance of the comments I have received.)

Issue History
1989PearlCDSHE CDS 9615