Burton Raffel is the crown prince of Old and Middle English translators in my book, and his Chaucer is another masterpiece. The rhyming is more subtle than in other translations of Chaucer, but it's there; and the tales unfold with seemingly effortless clarity. This is a high-quality, multiple-reader production, and it includes all the tales (including the Tale of Melibee and the Parson's Tale). The only thing marring the production are the chapter breaks: they are geared to the CDs rather than the individual tales. If you're planning to listen straight through, that's not a problem, but I would have preferred the ability to be more selective.
It's amazing that in only a few months, Audible has gone from a skimpy selection of Chaucer to three outstanding recordings of the complete set of Tales: one from Charlton Griffin, one from Blackstone, and this one from the BBC. Any one of them provides a wonderful listening experience. This one is my favorite because of Raffel; others may suit your taste better. But for heaven's sake get ONE of them.
Seamus Heaney is a wonderful poet and a wonderful reader: listening to him is like hearing the original poet holding forth. But the reading is abridged, in what seems more like a marketing decision -- trying to fit the audiobook onto a two-CD set -- than an artistic one. "Beowulf" could certainly use some abridgement here and there, and I wouldn't mind if there were only minor omissions; but among the episodes cut is the challenge that Unferth issues to Beowulf about his swimming contest with Brecca. This isn't just empty padding: it's essential to the characters of both Unferth and Beowulf. In many ways this is the best single recording of "Beowulf" available: why couldn't there be an unabridged (or at least a less-abridged) version as well? That would get six stars out of five. No other version comes close to the mastery of language shown by this one.
LA Theatre Works is a unique and rich source of live performances. Their audio productions are recorded in front of a live audience, which provides two benefits, especially in a wonderfully silly play like this: you can laugh along with other (real) people, and the actors are unlikely to drop their voices to a whisper. It's not quite the same as seeing the play on stage, but it's closer than listening to a studio production. You trade a small measure of verisimilitude in the sound for a large measure of communal laughter.
There's not much to say about the play itself. It's a puff of air, a totally ridiculous situation where the farce is embodied in a rapid exchange of one-liners rather than in pratfalls. Wilde's brilliant language sparkles throughout.
I listened to the other recordings of this play available on Audible, and while one of them in particular features a more stellar cast, they lack the energizing effect of hearing the responses of other people to the same lines that made me chuckle. Yes, it sounds "stagey" at times, but that's why I liked it!
This recording also includes an interview with the director.
Initially ... only for a few seconds, really ... it was disorienting to hear "Don Juan" read by the passionate American Hollywood film actor Tyrone Power; I've gotten accustomed to hearing distinguished knights of the British stage reading the Romantic poets on Audible.com. But early 19th-century British poetry with an American accent: how dare they?!
But then, quite rapidly, things got downright spooky. The swashbuckling Power BECOMES the swashbuckling Byron. While Tyrone Power has been dead now for 51 years and Lord Byron for 185, both men died tragically young: Power at 44, Byron at 36. Both were Byronesque figures in real life, the latter no less so than his eponymous predecessor. Bisexuals both, subjects of scandal both, larger-than-life artistic talents both. And by all means DO surf the web for their portrait and photo, respectively: the two men even resemble one another!
All of this I learned only AFTER listening to this audiobook, of course. Although this is obviously a transfer of an old LP, the audio quality is superb. But it is Tyrone Power's powerfully engaging interpretive reading ... particularly the fluency and passion of the interpretations, the nuances, the super clean diction that together with Lord Byron's colloquial prose make these poems sound so modern ... which makes this one of the very best Audio.com purchases I have ever made. All Audio.com "veterans" know that even with the best source material, a mediocre (or worse) narrator can leave a bad taste in listeners' mouths with nary a thing to be done about it. Rest assured, there is no such problem here. It sounds suspiciously hyperbolical, I know, but I have to say it nonetheless: Tyrone Power was born (and died) to play Lord Byron!