OP1327. DIDO AND AENEAS (Purcell), Live Performance, 1 Oct., 1951, Mermaid Theatre, London, w.Geraint Jones Cond. Kirsten Flagstad, Maggie Teyte, Thomas Hemsley, Edith Coates, Arda Mandikian, etc. (E.U.) Walhall 0186. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4035122651867
"Three performances of DIDO AND AENEAS were recorded live by HMV at Bernard Miles’ Mermaid Theatre in 1951, none being successful. One performance was broadcast and has been issued on CD by Walhall (WLCD 0186). When HMV undertook a studio recording, the cast was much changed. Kirsten Flagstad and Thomas Hemsley remained in the title-roles. Arda Mandikian was promoted from First Witch to Sorceress, but most noteworthy was the engagement of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the producer Walter Legge’s wife, as Belinda, Second Woman and the Spirit.
The duet ‘Fear no danger’ is usually listed as for Belinda and Second Woman (with no First Woman in the cast-list). At the Mermaid, First Woman and Second Woman were included, meaning that Belinda (Maggie Teyte) did not sing in that duet. Eilidh McNab was First Woman and is listed as such for HMV, but the duet, remember, is supposed to be for Belinda and Second Woman, both taken by Schwarzkopf, and I am sure that she duets with herself, leaving the announced McNab redundant, for nothing remains for her to sing.
Certainly Schwarzkopf would not be among my choices as Belinda, but nor would Hemsley be one of my recommendations as Aeneas. He sings cleanly, enunciates well, yet sounds too gentlemanly: English-polite, to coin a phrase. Let me stress that neither of them is a stumbling-block for me.
That leaves the best for last, as they say. Arda Mandikian, a Greek mezzo who recorded Berlioz’s Dido for Ducretet-Thomson, is here the Carthaginian queen’s enemy, singing the Sorceress in excellent English.
The other winning performance is that of Flagstad. Laying aside Wagnerian volume, she slims down her voice without losing its distinctive basic sound, even producing some lovely pointed top notes that touch the mark almost delicately. Points exist for which I do not care, such as some downward portamentos and occasional approaches from just below the note, but hers is not a romantic reading. Rather it is dignified, with a genuine attempt at the style, and even at sub-Brünnhilde fullness the voice retains its quality.
The Mermaid Singers are enthusiastic and do well enough if not perfectly honed. EMI’s registers suggest that the orchestra was formed of members of the Philharmonia. Geraint Jones, who also recorded as an organist and harpsichordist, knows the style of the period and presents a lively reading.”