In response to Tower’s going-out-of-business sale, I picked up the two Britten Opera boxes today for $75 (45% off) from the King of Prussia, PA store. It may turn out to be my last Tower purchase unless another Tower outpost still carries things I’m interested in (unlikely, I know). It was one of those things I felt I needed to pick up to fill a gaping hole in my opera collection.
This is one of those recordings I wouldn’t have picked up had it not been for the lowlowlowlow price. One reason I’ve been hesitant is that, frankly, I can’t stand Peter Pears’s voice, especially in his upper register. Further, listening to Grimes, I’m shocked at some of the intonation problems Pears has, especially in the duet with Ellen in the prologue. I vastly prefer Langridge, and intended to gradually pick up the recordings he’s been making with Hickox, but, well, the price was right.
I’m also annoyed by the lack of a libretto in any form, electronic or otherwise. Okay, okay, my English is fine, but, as everyone knows, sung English can be a different affair. (I recall one day walking into a room where the Goodall _Ring_ was playing. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was listening to an English-language performance.) Beyond that, though, I had hoped that the folks at Universal Music had gotten it through their thick heads at least to include the libretti on one of the CDs. To the extent that the industry is going in this direction (and, yes, I realize that might be a dubious premise), could Universal not have done at least what EMI has done and provided a link to the libretti on their site? (Of course, this might raise copyright issues in the case of Britten; hence the argument for libretti on CD.) Teldec, for their part, has gotten this right: in their recent budget-price opera reissues, they have included full libretti (e.g., for Harnoncourt’s Mozart operas and Barenboim’s Ring).