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The New York Times

November 24, 1985



Home Video

Allen Hughes


Anna Russell: The First Farewell Concert

Video Arts International

85 minutes.


     If there is anyone with even a passing interest in classical music who has not yet had the opportunity to learn about the lyric art from Anna Russell, help is at hand.  This veteran authority’s inimitable discourses on Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the symphony orchestra, folk music and other weighty subjects were captured live in a performance at the Baltimore Museum of Art on Nov. 7, 1984, and here they are – pinpoint accuracy and absolute zaniness intact.

     Miss Russell’s soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices are admittedly not what they were 30 years ago (she acknowledges, in fact, that her singing of all four parts in the Gilbert and Sullivan quartet may have lost some brilliance), but her comedy timing has not diminished one iota over the decades.  Thus, her telling of the story of Wagner’s “ring” remains totally hilarious, even for those who may know it by heart.  And when she reminds you that an orchestra is made up of three sections – the scrape, the bang and the blow – you wonder how you could ever have forgotten it.

     In short, this document of an incredibly perceptive analyst of the art is highly recommended for home study and probably ought to be on the required list of every school of music in the country, too.