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Cat. No. CHAN 10301 Price: £0 No. of discs: 1
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CHAN 10301 - Berkeley, Lennox: Ruth
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Available From: 11 April 2005
"A lifelong Christian, who had converted to Roman Catholicism in 1929, Berkeley chose the Biblical story of Ruth as the subject of an opera from a number of suggestions offered by the writer Eric Crozier. Crozier had been a co-founder with Benjamin Britten of both the English Opera Group and the Aldeburgh Festival, and for some years had collaborated closely with Britten, as opera director and librettist. Crozier’s adaptation of the story simplifies the narrative, but places a new emphasis on Ruth’s status as an outsider shunned by society, a crucial concern of the twentieth century (and indeed of the twenty-first). The chorus is given a prominent role, especially in the harvest festival of the third and final scene. Within each scene, rhymed set-pieces alternate with prose recitative.

Crozier’s diction is consciously archaic, so that the occasional direct Biblical quotations do not sound out of place. Together with the simplicity and solemnity of the action, this gives the work a feeling far removed from that of most operas, perhaps suggesting a series of stained-glass windows. The work calls on larger resources than most of the new works written for the English Opera Group. Of the two main female parts, Berkeley chose to make Ruth a mezzo-soprano and her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi, a soprano – perhaps to avoid the conventional associations of operatic love duets which would have been evoked by the combination of a soprano Ruth with a tenor Boaz. Berkeley sub-titled Ruth a ‘lyrical opera’, and its tone is indeed predominantly lyrical and pastoral. There is a French quality about some of the vocal writing, but his natural-sounding setting of English words, especially in the recitatives, owes more to Britten.


Fully paid-up Berkeley fans need not hesitate, however. We are unlikely to get a finer version in the near future.
International Record Review

A long-neglected British opera at last makes its sparkling debut on record.
Gramophone ‘Disc of the Month’ and ‘Critics’ Choice’

Hickox’s pacing is consistently right, making the most of the slow-moving plot. Jean Rigby as Ruth is charming but firm in resolve when needed and Yvonne Kenny is a dignified and vocally imposing Naomi. Much of the drama is carried by these two women but all the roles are well cast and effective. There are plenty of lively choruses fro the reapers, projected with panache. There’s a full libretto in three languages and informative notes from Anthony Burton…

…excellent performances…
Classic FM Magazine

Richard Hickox’s effective rep company of operatic singers brings its usual devotion and skill to the task in hand, with Jean Rigby a moving Ruth, Yvonne Kenny on fine form as her mother Naomi and Mark Tucker an ardent Boaz.
BBC Music Magazine

…all praise to Hickox and Chandos for putting this delight into the recording catalogue at last.
The Times


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