Music: Passion and Purity

"All English sopranos are virgins," a noted Broadway composer once moaned after an afternoon spent listening to British recordings. Chastity aside, there is a definite odor of sanctity in the tones of most English sopranos. At their best in church music by Bach, Handel and Mozart, they tend to frost the edges of more hot-blooded music. An exception who can deal both with purity and passion is British Mezzo-Soprano Janet Baker. Recently at Aldeburgh, England, she proved it with the English Opera Group by singing the tricky title role in Benjamin Britten's The...

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