GORDON GETTY: The Canterville Ghost – Oper Leipzig/ Gewandhausorchester/ Matthias Foremny – Pentatone

A splendid addition to the Getty catalog, one of his best works.

GORDON GETTY: The Canterville Ghost – Alexandra Hutton (Virginia)/ Jean Broekhuizen (Mrs. Otis)/ Denise Wernly (1st Twin, Boy, Voice)/ Rachel Marie Hauge (2nd Twin, Boy, Voice)/ Timothy Oliver (Cecil Cheshire)/ Jonathan Michie (Hiram Otis)/ Anooshah Golesorkhi (Canterville), Matthew Trevino (Ghost)/ Oper Leipzig/ Gewandhausorchester/ Matthias Foremny – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC 5186 541, 62:08 [Distr. by Naxos] *****:

Oscar Wilde’s deliciously slick The Canterville Ghost, a story of a haunting where nobody will take the Ghost seriously, has been made into films several times, and even a musical, but the work itself cries out for operatic treatment, and aside from someone like Samuel Barber—who obviously is not going to be able to take it on—it is difficult to think of anyone more suited to the task than Gordon Getty. Getty’s music doesn’t always persuade me—sometimes I think he gets lazy mid-composition—but in this piece, he gets everything right. Gramophone magazine didn’t like it much, which is an almost automatic recommendation for me, showing an inherent bias against Getty’s music, little of which they like. Fortunately, Pentatone seems committed to giving us as much Getty as possible, the good and the not so good, but in such splendid performances and sound that there is not much extra needed to make a decent evaluation of the music.

In the case of Canterville, the misunderstood Sir Simon (the ghost), center stage almost the entire sixty minutes, suffers not through disbelief, as everyone believes he exists, but is simply laughed at by nearly everyone. His crime, years ago, was an odious one—the murder of his wife. But this was too much for Getty, who cannot resolve the idea of the comedic elements in this story with such a heinous crime, and so reduces it in the opera to murder of a brother in law. Even though murder is murder, I think Getty misunderstands the ingredients of true black comedy, which often does involve something horrible, making the comedy more nervous and edgy. But even through this minor misfire, which doesn’t affect the bulk of the story, Getty’s music is superb.  The timing of the word setting is perfect, an almost extended technical manifestation of recitativo accompagnato, where we hear the soloist(s) singing to sparse accompaniment that is then commented on by the orchestra. The last fifteen minutes alone, with its marvelous melodic infusions as the ghost finds ultimate redemption, are worth the price of the disc.

The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Alexandra Hutton’s Virginia and Matthew Trevino’s Ghost, beautifully assisted by the Leipzig Opera forces.

Pentatone gives this recording wonderful balance and excellent separation, proving once again their mastery in handling surround sound. An easy recommendation!

—Steven Ritter  

 

 

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