In his excellent series covering the music of the Berkeleys, Richard Hickox conducts Lennox's most popular opera, which brings out the light-hearted fun in this comedy of manners.
On disc Berkeley's score works well, with excellent singing all round, from Roderick Williams and Yvonne Kenny as the hosts, Claire Rutter as Susan, Robin Leggate as Philip, and Anne Collins as the Grand Duchess.
Edward Greenfield, The Guardian, 7/9/2004
There are some catchy tunes, and Richard Hickox makes the most of them in this congenial performance. The cast of this first-ever recording is uniformly fine, with Roderick Williams bringing his warm, incisive baritone and feeling for words to the Earl of Dunmow. His Countess is brought to life by Yvonne Kenny, and their daughter Susan sounds attractive enough in Claire Rutter's performance. Robin Leggate is good as the Prince, Jean Rigby warm and characterful as the Dunmow's 'help' Mrs Kneebone, but Anne Collins as the imperious Grand Duchess of Monteblanco is the most vivid of all.
John Allison, BBC Music Magazine, 10/1/2004
Lennox Berkeley's charming one-act comedy written in 1954 tells the story of an impoverished Lord living in Chelsea who gives a dinner party in the hope that his daughter will marry one of the guests. The musical language is reminiscent of Britten's Albert Herring, and the moments of farce are neatly juxtaposed with mellower, lyrical passages. …excellent performances from the cast.
Warwick Thompson, Classic FM Magazine, 9/1/2004
How can this jewel of a one-act comic opera have escaped the record catalogue for half a century? The ingenious subtleties of the libretto can be savoured with the full text provided.
The layout of the opera is an impeccable blend of aria and recitative; the scoring is colourful and effective; and - what seems to have been missed in the first performances - the piece is full of memorable tunes.
Anne Collins as the Duchess is magnificent; Claire Rutter as Susan is enchanting; Robin Leggate makes a mellifluously charming Prince. But this is an all-star cast and Mozartian ensembles are scintiallating. Once again enourmous credit goes to Richard Hickox whose total understanding of Berkeley's music gives him unrivalled authority in this long-delayed debut.
Peter Dickinson, Gramophone, 9/1/2004
Elegant, well-mannered and neatly tailored music that happily acknowledges a debt to Ravel and Les Six, Poulenc in particular … and a scrupulous attention to the words. It helps that Richard Hickox is in the pit. A long-time advocate for the music of Berkeley, Hickox makes a persuasive case for a score that has been abandoned by public and critics, taking deep pleasure in its modest wit.
This is substantially the cast who sang A Dinner Engagement at the Cheltenham Festival in 2003. And very good they are too. Yvonne Kenny is suitably harassed as Lady Dunmow, Claire Rutter is admirable as her headstrong daughter and Anne Collins's Grand Duchess is every centimetre a minor crowned European head.
Christopher Cook, International Record Review, 9/1/2004