Alfie Boe - Love was a Dream - Fanfare


LEHÁR Schönist ist die Welt: Just believe it's true.  The Merry Widow: Vilia; Love unspoken. Paganini: Girls were made to love and kiss; Beautiful Italy.  Frederica: Oh maiden, my maiden.  The Land of Smiles: You are my heart's delight; Patiently Smiling; Beneath the window. Giuditta: Love was a dream; Friends, this is the life for me.  Frasquita: Farewell, my love, farewell.

                All of the selections in the headnote are rendered in English, which is the language used in this recording.  Alfie (Alfred) Boe has clear diction, so every word is intelligible without resorting to the lyrics printed in the booklet.  He also has a lovely voice, a lyric tenor with a warm, hearty midrange and liquid gold in the upper notes.  He is capable of a sweet pianissimo, just as capable of sounding robust and masculine, and sings every selection with heartfelt sincerity.  Such devotion prevents turning these heart-on-sleeve numbers into maudlin schmaltz.  A press release included with the submission tells us that Lehár was Boe's father's favorite composer and that Boe grew up hearing Tauber's recordings.  We're told that he recorded these selections to honor his father, who passed away in 1997.

                There is enough variety in the material to keep the album interesting for its 44-minute duration.  It is a reminder of what good melodies Lehár gave to the world, whether it's the bittersweet reflection of "Patiently Smiling" from The Land of Smiles or the jaunty "Friends, this is the life for me" from Giuditta.  Lehár adapted "Vilia" from The Merry Widow for a tenor when the operetta was revived in Berlin in 1928.  The famous waltz, "Love unspoken," is a duet in the opera, but is perfectly lovely as a tenor solo on this recording.  Only the tenor lines are sung; Hannah's part, unsung becomes orchestral interludes.  It works.

                Boe is well known in the U.K., and gradually his reputation is spreading internationally, coinciding with a growing body of recorded work.  He has some solo albums, and has appeared in a couple of Chando's "Opera in English" series.  I suspect the cover design and choice of titling the album "Love Was a Dream" is intended to give this album crossover appeal, but does not diminish the quality of the work.  Lehár is given serious and sincere respect.

                Fanfare's Editor likes us to offer comparisons to other recordings of similar content.  A direct comparison is difficult; I am not acquainted with another album of all these particular selections sung in English.  Other releases of German operettas sung in English are a Chandos two-disc set called "Treasures of Operetta"; a compendium of arias and duets that includes a few, very few, of the selections Boe has on his album.  Joan Sutherland released an album of operetta selections that features some flamboyant orchestral arrangements by Douglas Gamley.  Reader's Digest issued a nine-disc LP anthology titled "Treasury of Great Operettas," with selections from 18 operettas (including Porgy and Bess!), of which only nine were included in their CD of the same title.  The Longines Symphonette Recording Society also recorded a number of selections sung in English on a six-LP set (also including numbers from Porgy and Bess) with the title "The Golden Heart of Romantic Operetta."  Look for the Reader's Digest and Longines on eBay.  If there is not an obvious alternative to Boe's Lehár album, no matter: his would be a recommended choice.  I wish Boe had included more.  At 44 minutes, certainly "I'm off to Chez Maxim" from The Merry Widow could have been included.

01 May 2010