BRITTEN The Complete Operas 4785448
. . . [Pears'] Gustav von Aschenbach in "Death in Venice" is remarkable . . . Pears' excellence is matched by John Shirley-Quirk's assumption of the septet of baritone roles, full of malice, menace and dark humour. James Bowman's counter-tenor is full-bodied . . . this 1974 recording is essential listening. Decca's casts are mostly very strong. Billy Budd features Peter Glossop as an heroic Billy, while Michael Langdon's Claggart sends a chill down the spine, his sepulchral bass and biting diction never bettered on disc. Indeed, the HMS Indomitable is crewed by a splendid cast, right down to Robert Tear's Novice and Owen Brannigan's Dansker, the Ambrosian Opera Chorus full-throated in the call to arms when the French are sighted. Claire Watson's Ellen Orford graces a strong "Grimes" cast . . . Britten's handling of the orchestral score here is marvellous, perfectly pacing the "Sea Interludes" and Passacaglia, the Decca recording (remastered as are the others in this set) emerging fresh and full of detail. The casting of "The Rape of Lucretia" features Janet Baker on sublime form, with Pears and Heather Harper as the Male and Female Chorus; their narration 'She sleeps as a rose upon the night' is bewitchingly beautiful . . . to those coming to the composer's operas afresh, this box is a pretty good place to begin your explorations.