Review of The Maid of the Mountains CD

As a follow-up to the apparently successful recording of The Geisha, Hyperion records have recently issued a recording of The Maid of the Mountains. A curious choice for a successor, in my opinion: The Quaker Girl, in particular, is crying out for a professional recording, and a new Arcadians wouldn't have been out of place, either. However, it's the Maid they chose to do.

I must confess that I wasn't at all familiar with the show before listening to this recording - even the big 'hits' that members of my Musical Society were able to whistle at the drop of a hat were unknown to me. Fortunately, I did have a score and libretto (albeit a revised version by Emile Littler, but I don't think revised very much). So, with score, lib and CD, I was able to gain a reasonable impression of the show.

The most striking aspect of the score is that the 'interpolated' shows by J.W. Tate are far better than the rest of the score (with one exception) by Harold Fraser Simon. The other notable quality of the score was that it was one with a few really good songs and lots of unexceptional padding, and, in that, reminded me of the work of Andrew Lloyd-Weber (particularly Phantom, which a rate a very dull show indeed, but with 2 or 3 good songs that are flogged to death and a very dramatic ending). And the songs that I enjoyed the most were, unoriginally, the hits: 'My life is love', 'A paradise for two', 'A bachelor gay' and 'Love will find a way'. Of the rest, I enjoyed the introduction of the Governor (reminiscent of 'Politely dressed' from The Geisha), 'Husbands and wives' and 'Over here and over there'. But the impression still remains of a rather minor score with a few gems. As a side note, the main robber Baldassarre, is a non-singing role (well, apart from about 5 notes of recitative), speaking lines while others sing around him. This makes for a hole in the centre of the show, particularly as it means that he never gets a love duet with either of his prospective mates. I can't imagine why the original authors engaged a non-singer for the part!

The libretto is, unsurprisingly, poorly structured and wordy, mixing rather unconvincing romance with quite good comedy. It is a very standard story, with romance and low comedy mixed with melodramatic situations - very much of its time and, I daresay, effective enough in the theatre. The male characters, as usual, come across as more memorable than the female (in contrast to The Geisha, I might add).

As for the CD, I don't have any standards to compare it to, but it seems to be well played and sung, with no particularly weak links in the cast. Janis Kelly puts across Teresa's numbers very well, and one can start to understand why the show was such a hit from her performance. Tom Taylor's Governor came across strongly, and Richard Suart (who I find a little characterless in G&S) characterised the part of Tonio nicely, although I can see why 'I Understood' was dropped from the libretto I read! The New London Orchestra sound very nice to these ears, although, as with The Geisha, I found some of the tempi of Ronald Corp a little on the slow side.

In conclusion, a good production of a rather patchy and unremarkable show which, somehow or another, caught the imagination of the general public during the First World War. Well worth a listen, if only for its hit songs, but I do hope that Hyperion will produce a show of a higher standard next time (if there is a next time!).