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Naxos continues its work of releasing American Opera Classics with two new operas recorded live and both based on cornerstones of American literature. First is Lori Laitman’s The Scarlet Letter, an adaptation of Hawthorne’s 1850 novel. Laitman describes her own music as ‘lyrically expressive and intricately orchestrated’. A word to Lori: no one likes a showoff– and she is correct, it is all very adept. But she fails to mention that it tends to be turgid and over-orchestrated. One problem is lack of action until the end of the story, so once characters are introduced they spend a lot of time establishing their psychological credentials to generally unvaried retro tonality. By the end I felt as though I’d been hit over the head. However, Laitman does compose music which is very singable, and the recording (from performances by Opera Colorado in 2016) is excellent. Ari Pelto keeps things moving from the pit and the cast is strong. Laura Claycomb’s clear and bright soprano sails easily though Hester Prynne’s lines, and Malcolm MacKenzie is a richly-voiced baritone Chillingworth. As the vacillating Dimmesdale, on whom the dramatic conclusion focuses, tenor Dominic Armstrong makes the most of his ultimate breakdown and death, after which the opera somehow fizzles out in its last few pages.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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