All four of Lennox Berkeley’s operas are to be released on CD this summer, in BBC recordings which have never been commercially available before. Given the neglect of two of them, the one-acters, Ruth and Castaway, and the unlikelihood of a new stage production, or even a studio recording, of one of them, the grand opera Nelson, this is wonderful news for the Society and for all admirers of Berkeley’s music.
The four operas were recorded off their first live transmissions by the late Richard Itter, founder and owner of the independent record label, Lyrita, and in 2014, following formal agreements with the BBC and the Musicians’ Union, Lyrita Recorded Edition began to transfer these high-fidelity audio recordings from magnetic tape and acetate disc to CD, for release to the public.
The first of the operas to appear (in June) will be the three-act Nelson, in the BBC studio recording broadcast on 23 October 1983 (and re-broadcast in 1988, to mark the composer’s 85th birthday), with the BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Elgar Howarth, and a cast that included David Johnston, Eiddwen Harrhy and Brian Rayner Cook in the main roles.
Then in July Nimbus will release CDs of Lyrita’s A Dinner Engagement, in a studio recording broadcast in 1966, with the BBC Northern Singers and the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Groves; Ruth, in a studio recording broadcast in 1968, with the same chorus and orchestra, conducted by Steuart Bedford; and Castaway, in a recording of the premiere performance, given by the English Opera Group conducted by Meredith Davies at the Aldeburgh Festival on 3 June 1967 (and broadcast on BBC Radio on 10 June).
Further information will be posted on the Nimbus website nearer the publication dates, and all four operas will be available for sale through all the usual online channels.