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Thomson Smillie

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  • The Barber of Seville | Thomson Smillie

    The Barber of Seville

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 18 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    The Barber of Seville is Rossini’s most popular opera. Its effervescent overture (written originally for another work!) presents a perfect platform for the amusing plot in which the barber, Figaro, stage-manages a romance between Count Almaviva and Rosina, and puts to flight the old suitor, Dr Bartolo. "Largo al Factotum" is one of the most popular arias in opera - nearly 200 years after its first performance it is still one of the great show-stoppers.

  • Don Giovanni | Thomson Smillie

    Don Giovanni

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Don Giovanni has long been regarded as Mozart’s supreme theatrical achievement. The subject seems unpromising - the last day in the life of the notorious womanizer Don Juan - but the skill of the librettist allied to the genius of Mozart at the very peak of his powers has created a work which is not only highly entertaining but reflects an incredible understanding of the human condition.

    Doggy Bird says: "Very short introductions to specific operas!"
  • Pelleas et Melisande | Thomson Smillie

    Pelleas et Melisande

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 18 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (6)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (5)

    Dating from the last decade of the 19th century, Pelléas et Mélisande points the way into the 20th century. The score is hauntingly beautiful, but there is more to the work than shifting panels of elusive, impressionistic sound. Debussy retains the text of Maeterlinck’s play, and the linguistic subtleties of the French text are matched perfectly by the musical detail. Taking a little time to explore the romantic, elusive world of this opera is particularly rewarding.

  • Leoncavallo: Pagliacci | Thomson Smillie

    Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 1 min)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    Pagliacci may be the most completely compelling short opera in the repertory and owes much of its impact to a brilliant story based, it is said, on true life and told through the device of a play-within-a-play. The action is set in Calabria in the deep south of Italy where the jealousies and illicit passions of a troupe of strolling actors precisely intersect with the play they are performing - to both touching and tragic effect.

  • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro | Thomson Smillie

    Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (3)

    Many opera-lovers would name The Marriage of Figaro as their favorite opera. It appeals to the most intellectual listener, but also to music-lovers seeking great melodies and ensembles (while it remains accessible through its fascinating plot and memorable characters) and to those seeking only entertainment. One of three operas by Mozart to libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte, it represents one of the pinnacles not just of operatic but of human achievement.

    Chelsea says: "Not the audio that it promised."
  • Mozart: The Magic Flute | Thomson Smillie

    Mozart: The Magic Flute

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 10 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (13)
    Performance
    (13)
    Story
    (13)

    The Magic Flute almost defines a masterpiece, because it can be enjoyed on every level. It is a superb fairy story, complete with dragons, demons, a handsome prince, and a lovely maiden seriously in need of rescue; it is a political satire, social commentary, and psychological drama; it is full of tunes from the playful to the heart-stopping, jolly songs, and deeply spiritual outpourings. It is, in short, "Mozart" - and there is no greater compliment than that.

    Die Falknerin says: "The sublime and the ridiculous"
  • Verdi: Rigoletto | Thomson Smillie

    Verdi: Rigoletto

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Rigoletto is simply wonderful entertainment with superb music. It is also much more - a daring (for its time) attack on aristocratic privilege, a tender love story, and an impassioned appeal on behalf of the disadvantaged, all set to music of such wealth and beauty that, with its sister operas La traviata and Il trovatore, it has defined Italian opera for 150 years. Overcoming initial trouble with the censors, Verdi's Rigoletto was a smash hit at its premiere and has not been out of the repertoire since. It’s not hard to see why.

  • Die Fledermaus | Thomson Smillie

    Die Fledermaus

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (5)
    Performance
    (5)
    Story
    (5)

    Die Fledermaus is one of the few operatic works to which the phrase "never a dull moment" can be truthfully applied. From the explosive opening of the famous overture - reminiscent of a volley of champagne corks - through the surging energy of the "Fledermaus Waltz" and the many comic numbers, of which the accelerando trio is the finest, up to such huge concerted numbers as the "Duidu" finale to Act II, this is an operetta which almost incarnates nostalgia. Thomson Smillie and David Timson infuse their exploration of Die Fledermaus with as much life as the operetta itself.

    Die Falknerin says: "Revenge of the bat"
  • La sonnambula | Thomson Smillie

    La sonnambula

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 16 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    La sonnambula was written by Bellini as a vehicle for two of the supreme singers of his age and accordingly is a fine example of the school we call bel canto, where beauty of voice and the virtuosity of the singers is integral to conveying the emotions in the soul of the composer. The fact that Bellini was one of the great melodists, writing long, beautiful vocal lines, that he was a master orchestrator and that he could write stirringly for the chorus all conspire to make La sonnambula extremely enjoyable.

  • La Traviata | Thomson Smillie

    La Traviata

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 5 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (10)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    La Traviata owes its enduring popularity to a superb story of young love and fatal sacrifice, set to music by Italy’s master melodist at the peak of his powers. Interest and poignancy are added by the fact that this is a true story - the baritone ‘heavy’ is Alexander Dumas who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo. But it is the central figure, the heroine Violetta, the archetypal ‘whore with the heart of gold’ who dominates the piece. It is her opera and we love her for it.

  • Gilbert and Sullivan: Opera Explained | Thomson Smillie

    Gilbert and Sullivan: Opera Explained

    • ORIGINAL (2 hrs and 39 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (7)
    Story
    (7)

    This audio-biography sets out to explain the timeless popularity of the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan: a colorful partnership of the most successful writers in the history of light music. It highlights Gilbert’s mastery of language - his wit, his turn of phrase, his brilliant lyrics (alternately very funny and deeply moving) - and the special melodic gift which enabled Arthur Sullivan to write music of such beauty and style. While each was a master of his craft, it was the combination that created magic sparks.

  • Orfeo: Opera Explained | Thomson Smillie

    Orfeo: Opera Explained

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 17 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (2)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Monteverdi’s Orfeo, first performed in 1607, generates a special excitement because it is the first unquestioned masterpiece of opera. Notable for its precise orchestration and powerful drama it was a groundbreaking work. It concerns the legend of Orpheus, the demigod whose music had the power to conquer the forces of Hell and to bring his wife back, briefly, to life. The extracts used in this introduction are from Naxos’ full recording; it uses authentic period instruments, which serve to evoke the early Baroque period of the opera’s composition.

  • Verdi: Aida | Thomson Smillie

    Verdi: Aida

    • UNABRIDGED (1 hr and 3 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (8)
    Performance
    (8)
    Story
    (8)

    Ancient Egypt and the war with Ethiopia is the setting for Verdi’s grandest opera. It is the story of the love between Rhadames, the Egyptian general, and Aida, an Ethiopian slave, and the jealousy of Amneris, daughter of the King of Egypt. It was written in 1871 to a commission from the Khedive of Egypt to inaugurate the new opera house in Cairo. Aida generally is considered one of the most spectacular of Verdi’s operas.

  • L'elisir d'amore | Thomson Smillie

    L'elisir d'amore

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 18 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (3)
    Story
    (3)

    L’elisir d’amore, or The Elixir of Love, has remained popular for almost two centuries because of a touching tale and a galaxy of comic characters adapted from the traditional commedia dell’ arte. Above all Donizetti poured into the score all the warmth and tenderness of the Italian temperament.

  • Verdi: Il Trovatore | Thomson Smillie

    Verdi: Il Trovatore

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (9)
    Performance
    (9)
    Story
    (9)

    Il Trovatore has been ruthlessly parodied. It is a tale of murder and mayhem, burned babies, roasted hags, would-be nuns, strolling minstrels, and bad baritones. And indeed the libretto does call for a willing suspension of disbelief. The reward is in the music, a score as prodigally melodic as only the mature Verdi could write: the "Anvil" chorus, the "Miserere" scene, two great tenor arias, a beautiful baritone aria - a richness without embarrassment.

  • Puccini: La Bohème | Thomson Smillie

    Puccini: La Bohème

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (11)

    La Bohème is one of the three operas - the others are Carmen and Aida - believed to be the most popular ever written. In the case of La Bohème the reason is that it virtually defines the term "romantic". The poignant story of Mimì and Rodolfo is told in music of such tender beauty, allied, as always, to Puccini’s intuition of what works in the theatre. The result is an opera that readily appeals to our emotions and senses.

  • Puccini: Turandot | Thomson Smillie

    Puccini: Turandot

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (10)
    Story
    (10)

    Puccini’s swansong has a claim to being the last great popular opera. Its melodies have enchanted audiences since its posthumous premiere in 1926, two years after Puccini’s death. It involves a chilling story of love and cruelty, an intriguing cast of characters against the exotic backdrop of Imperial China, magnificent choruses and ensembles, and dazzling orchestration in an exotic score that comprises a string of remarkable arias - among which the great tenor aria "Nessun dorma" is the jewel. It is more than Puccini’s last opera: It is the last word, in every sense, on Italian opera.

    Die Falknerin says: "Fire and ice, hope and blood"
  • Puccini: Madame Butterfly | Thomson Smillie

    Puccini: Madame Butterfly

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 5 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (14)
    Performance
    (12)
    Story
    (12)

    Madama Butterfly runs the gamut of operatic emotions. The title heroine has a fragility wonderfully expressed in her entry music, deep sexual instincts as shown in the love duet, and immense tragic stature in her last hours. The fate of Madama Butterfly - married to an American sailor and then abandoned - engages our emotions to a degree equaled by few other opera heroines. The oriental setting and the exquisite orchestral and choral writings are treasured bonuses.

  • Fidelio | Thomson Smillie

    Fidelio

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 19 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (4)
    Performance
    (4)
    Story
    (4)

    Fidelio is a work like no other. Beethoven’s only opera is about the joy of married love - by a man who never knew that pleasure. It is about heroism by a man who was often mean and petty in his human relations; it is about freedom by a man who was a prisoner of his own deafness; and ultimately it is about joy by a man who experienced precious little of it.

    Die Falknerin says: "Beethoven's only opera in all its glory"
  • Carmen | Thomson Smillie

    Carmen

    • ORIGINAL (1 hr and 6 mins)
    • By Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated By David Timson
    Overall
    (11)
    Performance
    (11)
    Story
    (10)

    Carmen is among the most popular operas for all the obvious reasons: great characters, a gripping story, and fabulous music. But what sets it on a pinnacle is an amazing combination of three factors: a sizzling Gipsy heroine (one of the most psychologically complex and compelling characters in all theatre), great atmosphere (Spain, hot sun, the bull-ring), and the prodigality of melodic invention - one great tune after another, at least a dozen of which are the staples of Madison Avenue and the animated cartoon.

    Die Falknerin says: "Passion, power, and truth"
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