Retrospect Opera

Great British Operas On Record

Fête Galante by Ethel Smyth, and The Happy Prince by Liza Lehmann
This album brings together, for the first time, important works by two of Britain’s leading female composers of the early twentieth century: Ethel Smyth and Liza Lehmann. Smyth described her beautiful opera of 1923, Fête Galante, as ‘A Dance Dream’. It is a romantic evocation of the traditional commedia dell’arte – the world of Harlequin, Pierrot and Columbine. In an idyllic Watteau-esque garden, we find love, jealousy, deception and danger as life mysteriously mimics art. Will Pierrot identify the Queen’s lover, or must he pay the ultimate price for silence? Lehmann’s dramatic ‘recitation’, or melodrama, of 1908, The Happy Prince, is a musical retelling of Oscar Wilde’s celebrated story of self-sacrifice and redemption, composed for reciter and pianist.

‘I found Ethel Smyth's music ... a clever marriage of early baroque and late romantic, always colourful, often beautiful and, in its use of the orchestra, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez, very effective. The chorus writing is excellent and as for the cast, the shining vocal performances are by Felix Kemp as Pierrot, Carolyn Dobbin as The Queen and tenor Mark Milhofer as the Lover. The story of 'The Happy Prince' is read clearly and expressively by Felicity Lott with Liza Lehmann's piano score played by Valerie Langfield.’ (Alan Cooper, British Music Society)

  • Tracks 1-17: Ethel Smyth: Fête Galante (45.08)
    • Charmian Bedford (Columbine)
    • Carolyn Dobbin (The Queen)
    • Felix Kemp (Pierrot)
    • Simon Wallfisch (The King)
    • Mark Milhofer (The Lover)
    • Alessandro Fisher (Harlequin)
    • Lontano Ensemble, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez
  • Track 18: Liza Lehmann: The Happy Prince (21.44)
    • Dame Felicity Lott (reciter)
    • Valerie Langfield (piano)
  • Track 19: Ethel Smyth: Fête Galante Minuet (4.08)
  • Track 20: Ethel Smyth: The Boatswain’s Mate The Keeper (0.36)
  • Track 21: Ethel Smyth: Entente Cordiale Two Interlinked French Folk Melodies(4.33)
    • These three with Sir Adrian Boult conducting the Light Symphony Orchestra (recorded 1939)
  • The booklet includes the full libretto, and essays by Christopher Wiley (with Valerie Langfield), John Rudlin, Odaline de la Martinez and Andrew H. King.
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Listen to clips from Fête Galante here:

Chorus: Hushed is the world

The Queen and the Lover: Lovers' Duet

Pierrot: Oh! it is sweet to be alone

Chorus: Heigho! heigho!

Orchestra: Sarabande

Chorus: Madrigal - Soul's Joy