OP3140. WERTHER (in English), Live Performance, 13 Dec., 1977, w.Mackerras Cond. English National Opera; Janet Baker, John Brecknock, Joy Roberts, Patrick Wheatley, etc. (England) 2-Chandos 3033, Slipcase Edition, w.Libretto-Brochure. Final Sealed Copy! - 095115303320
"...It is a tribute to the artistry of Janet Baker and John Brecknock that the English National Opera's production of WERTHER conveys so much of the Gallic flavor of Massenet's tragedy. Yet the real star just might be Charles Mackerras, who conducts this fragile opera...with exactly the right blend of passion and grace...Recorded in performance at the London Coliseum on December 13, 1977, this WERTHER has that sense of occasion so often missing in studio efforts..
- Lee Milazzo, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
“This recording, captured live at the London Coliseum in 1977, finds Dame Janet Baker at her absolute best - which is saying a great deal about a singer who probably never had an off night. Dame Janet is the show’s calling card: Her remarkable control over dynamics is all important to the role of Charlotte. One senses her holding back, with great propriety, for the first two acts; her tone invariably white and soft and rarely singing above mezzoforte at all. By the time we meet her in the third act, her sadness has overcome her, and as her sense of foreboding grows so does the pressure she puts on her vibrato. A brilliant portrayal.
Sir Charles Mackerras leads the ENO forces with understanding and feeling and the playing and singing are first rate. Fans of Dame Janet will have to own this.”
- Robert Levine, classicstoday.com
“While mezzo-soprano Janet Baker was best known for her performances of British music, especially that of her compatriot Benjamin Britten, she was also a fine performer of art song, sacred music, and Classical and pre-Classical opera. Her repertoire, as well as her background, frequently overlapped that of her great predecessor, Kathleen Ferrier; and though her career was mostly centered in England, and she always had a special place in the regard of English audiences, her fame was international.
In 1956, she won the second prize in the Kathleen Ferrier Competition; that year also saw her operatic debut as Roza in Smetana's THE SECRET, in an Oxford University Opera Club performance. In 1962, she first sang with the English Opera Group, as Polly in Benjamin Britten's famous production of THE BEGGAR'S OPERA at Aldeburgh. She later credited the leading spirits of that group, Britten and tenor Peter Pears, as giving the ensemble and its singers the highest possible standards, as well as raising the reputation of British singers internationally. In 1966, she made her Covent Garden début as Hermia in Britten's A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and her Glyndebourne début as Purcell's Dido. In 1971, Britten wrote the role of Kate Julian for Baker in his opera OWEN WINGRAVE, written for BBC television.
As her operatic career progressed, Baker focused on pre-Classical and Classical works such as Gluck's ORFEO ED EURIDICE, Handel's GIULIO CESARE, the title role of Gluck's ALCESTE, Dido in Purcell's DIDO AND AENEAS, Ottavia in Monteverdi's L'INCORONAZIONE DI POPPEA, and Dorabella in Mozart's COSI FAN TUTTE. However, she also performed Romantic and twentieth century roles such as Dido in Berlioz's LES TROYENS A CARTHAGE; Donizetti's MARIA STUARDA; Charlotte in Massenet's WERTHER; and Octavian in Richard Strauss' DER ROSENKAVALIER. Much of her recital repertoire was drawn from the standard works of Fauré, Schumann, Schubert, Duparc, Haydn, and Mahler, and the British masters such as Purcell and Elgar; however, she also drew from the works of lesser-known composers, particularly from the pre-classical period, taking special pleasure in bringing their works to public attention. In 1982, she gave her farewell performances as Orfeo in London and at Glyndebourne.”
- Anne Feeney, allmusic.com