OP2928. LA JOLIE FILLE DE PERTH (Bizet) (in English), w.Beecham Cond. Royal Phil. & BBC Theatre Chorus;
Gwen Catley, Richard Lewis, Trefor Jones, Norman Walker, Owen Brannigan, etc. (England) 2-Beulah 1-2PD23, Broadcast Performance, 5 & 6 June, 1949, BBC. Very Long out-of-print, Final Copy!
“In his autobiography A MINGLED CHIME, Sir Thomas Beecham gives an account [that] while waiting for a chance to introduce an opera of his own to the impresario of a newly established touring opera company in 1902, he found himself called in to provide a piano accompaniment for a soprano who had not brought her music with her, auditioning for the part of Marguerite. He was able to accompany her from memory and when it turned out that he knew all the operas planned for the season and had accompanied the impresario himself in a series of favourite tenor arias, for which he offered increasing praise, he found himself engaged as second conductor for the tour. His services to opera in England were very considerable, from the days of the Beecham Symphony Orchestra before the war, to the foundation in 1915 of the Beecham Opera Company, and in the 1930s an association with Covent Garden. Having lost control of his London Philharmonic Orchestra, which had become self-governing, Beecham established his own Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946, after war years spent largely in New York. In the same year Covent Garden re-opened, not under Beecham, who had had artistic control until 1939, but under Karl Rankl."
- Ned Ludd
“Gwen Catley, a high soprano with quite exceptional facility for coloratura, was for 20 years a great public favourite. She sang in opera, on the concert platform, in revue, on radio and television; she made countless records of songs and arias, and appeared in two films, giving a great many people a great deal of pleasure. Her voice was small, but crystal clear and firmly projected, while its legendary agility was balanced by style, delicacy and excellent English diction. She was a fine musician.
She studied at the Guildhall School of Music at the time when Sir Landon Ronald was its Principal; her chief singing teacher was the tenor Walter Hyde. Catley won the Gold Medal - in fact she won it twice, but was not allowed by her father to accept it on the first occasion. By the time she won it again, she was married to the cellist Allen Ford.
On leaving the GSM she joined the BBC chorus. In 1937 she sang the Queen of the Night in THE MAGIC FLUTE and Nannetta in FALSTAFF for Sadler's Wells Opera, and the following year gave her début recital at the Wigmore Hall. She was soon immersed in a busy career as a concert singer, working with all the leading British orchestras as well as with the BBC. After the war she sang with the Carl Rosa Opera Company. She had first appeared with them in 1941, singing Gilda, and she continued to sing with the company until the 1956/57 season, almost invariably as Gilda. At the end of ‘Caro nome’ she would ‘let forth a silvery high E’, as one critic remarked.
Her repertory was wide- ranging, from Mozart to Johann Strauss, from Purcell to Edward German. In 1949 she sang Catherine Glover in a BBC studio broadcast of Bizet's THE FAIR MAID OF PERTH, with Richard Lewis as Henry Smith and conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.”
- Elizabeth Forbes, THE INDEPENDENT, 14 Nov., 1996
“Richard Lewis, a tenor who excelled in Handel and who also sang in the first performances of several contemporary operas, [was] one of the first English singers to achieve world fame in concert and opera, [and] made his debuts at both Glyndebourne and Covent Garden in 1947, appearing regularly with both companies until 1979. His debut role at Glyndebourne was the Male Chorus in Britten's RAPE OF LUCRETIA. His other roles there included Tom Rakewell in the first English staging of Stravinsky's RAKE'S PROGRESS, but he was also highly regarded for his performances in works by Monteverdi, Gluck, Mozart and Strauss.
At Covent Garden, his portrayals included Hoffmann, Tamino and Don Jose, but he was particularly prized as a performer of 20th-century music. In 1954, he created the role of Troilus in William Walton's TROILUS AND CRESSIDA, the role in which he made his American debut in 1955 at the San Francisco Opera. Mr. Lewis's other premieres included central roles in Sir Michael Tippett's MIDSUMMER MARRIAGE (1955) and KING PRIAM (1962), both at Covent Garden, where he also sang Aron in the first British performance of Schoenberg's MOSES UND ARON in 1965. He was the tenor soloist in the first performance of Stravinsky's CANTICUM, at the Venice International Festival of Contemporary Music in 1956, and he sang Captain Vere in the American premiere of Britten's BILLY BUDD with the American Opera Society at Carnegie Hall in 1966.
Besides contemporary and standard repertory opera, Mr. Lewis appeared frequently in the United States as a soloist in concert works and oratorios, and he was considered to be particularly expert in Baroque music. He was a member of the New York-based Bach Aria Group in the 1960s. In the Baroque repertory, Handel was his specialty, and his recordings of Handel arias were widely admired. Mr. Lewis' last performance was a concert of Handel arias at the Kennedy Center in 1981.”
- Allan Kozinn, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 14 Nov., 1990
"Beecham loved this type of French music, and his performance is well worth hearing, even in an elderly recording with a distinctly antique sounding translation. Richard Lewis sings quite beautifully as Smith, and his rendering of the famous 'Serenade' is on a par with the memorable recording by Heddle Nash. Gwen Catley and the other members of the cast are excellent, especially Owen Brannigan as Glover and Norman Walker as Ralph."
- Zillah Dorset Akron