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.
Great Operatic Arias
Gerald Finley, baritone
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Edward Gardner, conductor
(Chandos Opera in English)
Gerald Finley will appear on WNYC's Soundcheck on Friday, March 19, followed on Saturday, March 20 by a recital at Carnegie's Zankel Hall.