Great Operatic Arias, G. Finley, London Philharmonic Orchestra, E. Gardner
(released on February 23, 2010)
Chandos CHAN 3167 | 68'41"
As noted before, the Opera in English label at Chandos is a quixotic project, not for championing operas actually written in English but for apparently finding enough collectors who want to own foreign-language operas in English translation. To be sure, Finley's recital includes selections from English-language operas worth knowing, including "Batter My Heart" from Finley's memorable turn as Oppenheimer in John Adams's Doctor Atomic and Harry's "Oh bring to me a pint of wine" from Mark-Anthony Turnage's The Silver Tassie (2000). Whether or not you find the translated selections compelling depends on if you do not mind hearing phrases like "So I am evil because I'm human, / primeval slime has left its vileness in me" (Iago's creed aria in Otello), "There will my arms enfold you, / there will you say I do: / and if you let me hold you, / your dreams will come true" ("Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni), or "Ah, but to quell the dark imperious eyes of Tosca, / see her grow faint and languish in my arms, / feel her surrender languishing in my arms" (Scarpia's "Va, Tosca" from Tosca).
It is a shame that the selection of arias does not include anything by Benjamin Britten, another composer at whose works Finley excels, as shown in his various recordings of the operas, including Owen Wingrave among others. Finley's rarely sounds anything but smooth and puissant, with only slight tendencies to the underside of the pitch and overly nasal placement. For anyone other than enthusiasts of Finley's voice or for opera translated into English, however, this disc is not likely to be a high priority. The translations are not terrible, to be sure, carefully considered so that they match the original melodic scansion as much as possible, but to ears accustomed to familiar operas in their original languages, it can be jarring.
Gerald Finley sings for the Vocal Arts Society this evening, starting at 7:30 pm, at the Embassy of Austria.