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CHAN 10219
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CHAN 10219
Opera - A Dinner Engagement

Berkeley, Lennox: A Dinner Engagement

The Classical Shop
release date: June 2004

Originally recorded in 2003


City of London Sinfonia

Richard Hickox

Roderick Williams

baritone - The Earl of Dunmow

Anne Collins

mezzo-soprano - HRH The Grand Duchess of Monteblanco

Jean Rigby

mezzo-soprano - Mrs Kneebone

Claire Rutter

soprano - Susan

Yvonne Kenny

soprano - The Countess of Dunmow

Blake Fischer

tenor - An Errand Boy

Robin Leggate

tenor - HRH Prince Philippe


Blackheath Halls, London


Brian Couzens


Ralph Couzens

Michael Common


Record Label



Total Time - 59:23
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Opera - A Dinner Engagement



Select Complete Single Disc for
premiere recording

A Dinner Engagement, Op. 45

  An Opera in Two Scenes  
  Libretto by Paul Dehn  
  Scene 1  
1 'Salt, pepper, olive oil' 4:00
  Lord Dunmow, Lady Dunmow, Boy  
2 'I'm sorry, Milady, I came through the front door' 3:25
  Mrs Kneebone, Lady Dunmow, Lord Dunmow  
3 'In the summer of my time' 4:05
  Lord Dunmow, Lady Dunmow, Mrs Kneebone  
4 'At Missis Ellibank's in Wimbledon' 2:27
  Mrs Kneebone, Lady Dunmow, Lord Dunmow  
5 'Mother, please can I help?' 5:26
  Susan, Lady Dunmow, Mrs Kneebone, Lord Dunmow  
6 'He was a quiet little boy' 3:30
  Lady Dunmow, Susan, Mrs Kneebone, Lord Dunmow  
7 'Prenez six belles tomates' 3:31
  Lady Dunmow, Lord Dunmow, Mrs Kneebone, Susan  
8 'Is this the residence of the Earl and Countess of Dunmow?' 1:45
  Prince Philippe, Mrs Kneebone  
  Scene 2  
9 'So this, dear Lady Dunmow, is your drawing room' 2:12
  Duchess, Lady Dunmow, Prince Philippe, Lord Dunmow  
10 'I never moved a muscle' 2:20
  Lord Dunmow, Lady Dunmow, Duchess, Prince Philippe  
11 'Forgive my curiosity, but is your servant that young girl. . .?' 3:28
  Prince Philippe, Lord Dunmow, Lady Dunmow, Duchess  
12 'Come and see our little garden' 2:05
  Lady Dunmow, Lord Dunmow, Prince Philippe, Duchess  
13 'This way, Ma'am, through the back door' 2:49
  Lord Dunmow, Duchess, Prince Philippe, Susan  
14 'Oh, shall I kneel in shame. . .?' 2:50
  Susan, Prince Philippe  
15 'I like to imagine how these must have looked' 4:14
  Susan, Prince Philippe  
16 'Mon aimée attend la lune' 2:08
  Prince Philippe  
17 'Kiss her at once!' 3:24
  Duchess, Prince Philippe, Susan, Lord Dunmow, Lady Dunmow, Boy  
18 'Let her beauty be her dowry' 2:43
  Duchess, Susan, Prince Philippe, Lord Dunmow, Lady Dunmow, Boy, Mrs Kneebone  
19 'My Lords, Ladies, Duchess and gentlemen!' 3:01
  Mrs Kneebone, Prince Philippe, Susan  
 Roderick Williams baritone - The Earl of Dunmow
 Yvonne Kenny soprano - The Countess of Dunmow
 Claire Rutter soprano - Susan
 Jean Rigby mezzo-soprano - Mrs Kneebone
 Anne Collins mezzo-soprano - HRH The Grand Duchess of Monteblanco
 Robin Leggate tenor - HRH Prince Philippe
 Blake Fischer tenor - An Errand Boy
 Richard Hickox
  23-27 September 2003  
Richard Hickox, the City of London Sinfonia and a cast of distinguished soloists present Sir Lennox Berkeley’s first and most successful opera, A Dinner Engagement, a highly inventive and compelling score, full of wit and imaginative touches.

This is the premiere recording of this wryly observed social comedy.

These forces have acquired a formidable reputation for their performances of English opera, and their recordings have received numerous recommendations including Editor’s and Critics’ Choices and a Grammy Award for Peter Grimes.

Full texts are included.

Sir Lennox Berkeley was a master of all aspects of his craft; but he is not usually thought of as a significant composer of operas. However, in the later, post-war phase of his career, he wrote one full-scale opera and three one-acters, and was working on another when illness forced him into retirement. A Dinner Engagement, the first of his operas to reach the stage, was commissioned by the English Opera Group and first performed at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1954. Berkeley’s old friend Benjamin Britten congratulated him on the work’s success: ‘There are most lovely things in the piece, my dear, which give one enormous pleasure…’

The libretto is by Paul Dehn, an extremely successful screenwriter who was also responsible for the text of William Walton’s The Bear. It centres on Lord and Lady Dunmow, aristocrats who have fallen on hard times in the straitened post-war years. Their dinner guests in their modest Chelsea home are the Grand Duchess of Monteblanco (to which, before the war, Lord Dunmow had been Envoy Extraordinary) and her son, Prince Philippe. Lord and Lady Dunmow hope that Prince Philippe will be attracted to their daughter, Susan. The interaction of these characters, and the interventions of the hired help, Mrs Kneebone, and the grocer’s errand boy, produce some nicely observed social comedy. The opera takes place in the Dunmows’ kitchen, but the text provides all the variety a composer could wish for, with fast-moving prose dialogue alternating with short arias in verse, and numerous ensembles, the lifeblood of comic opera.

'This excellent first recording is based on performances at last year's Cheltenham Festival, when Hickox conducted the City of London Sinfonia, with a cast led by Anne Collins, Claire Rutter and Yvonne Kenny.'
Financial Times Magazine

'The opera is a total delight, and so is the recording.'
American Record Guide

Berkeleys transparent, French-inflected score is ideally suited to domestic listening, and the most sprightly singers - Roderick Williams, Yvonne Kenny and Claire Rutter - lead the way, rollicking and rolling through the social comedy.
The Times

'As a comedy it may be dated, but on disc Berkeley's score works well, with excellent singing all round''
The Guardian

'Altogether an admirable diversion!'
International Record Review

This is a scintillating comedy adroitly characterised and full of memorable tunes. Its finesse comes from Mozart, and the libretto works hand-in-glove with the music and admirably demonstrated by this superb recording.'
Gramophone Critic's Choice

This performance of Sir Lennox Berkeley’s one-act opera written for Aldeburgh in 1954 was a success during the composer’s centenary year in 2003 and it is good to have it preserved.
The Sunday Telegraph

'Anne Collins as the Duchess is magnificent; Claire Rutter as Susan is enchaning; Robin leggate makes a mellifluously charming Prince. But this is an all-star cast and the Mozartian ensembles are scintillating. Once again enormous credit to Richard Hickox whose total understanding of the Berkeley's music gives him unrivalled authority in this long-delayed debut. Well recorded, too'

I Livingstone

M Gruffydd-jones

With a nod to Lord Berner's 'Wedding Bouquet' and 'La Carosse du Saint-Sacrement' and also perhaps Elizabeth Maconchy's 'The Sofa', Sir Lennox Berkeley makes a splendid case for an English claim to have cornered the market for short pithy social comedy; 'A Dinner Engagement' is a sparkling delight. While it shows Berekeley's early indoctrination in all that is best in French 20th Century music, the subject is treated in the very English traditions of Waugh, Wodehouse, Mitfords, Powell and Coward. With Hickox as majo domo, only champagne is served at this dinner engagement!
M Lloyd-Williams