BBC Music Magazine

This rewarding Rameau is a recording to truly savour

Conductor and cast bring colour and eloquence to one of the composer’s best, says Nicholas Anderson




Cyrille Dubois, Judith van Wanroij, Chantal Santon Jeffery; Purcell Choir; Orfeo Orchestra/györgy Vashegyi Glossa GCD 924010 168:37 mins (3 discs)

Dardanus offers a wide spectrum of instrument­al colour and a rewarding expressive range second to none among Rameau’s operas. Yet the work’s premiere in Paris in 1739 was indifferen­tly received, and Rameau and his librettist Le Clerc de la Bruère made sweeping changes for its revival in 1744. So much so, in fact, that Dardanus was then described as a nouvelle tragédie. Today’s artists must decide which of the two versions to perform, or whether to mix and match. György Vashegyi, broadly speaking, has followed the 1744 score, which notably contains an affecting prison scene in Act IV.

Loosely based on Book VII of Virgil’s Aeneid, the story concerns the love of the eponymous hero for Iphise, daughter of Teucer with whom he is at war. Inconvenie­ntly, Iphise is betrothed to Antenor, an ally of Teucer but, thanks to Venus and Rameau’s glorious music, she and Dardanus are at last married.

This exciting and full-blooded account has more historic coherence than any so far of this great opera. György Vashegyi, who already has three Rameau opera recordings to his name, has mustered a uniformly strong cast with lively characteri­sation from Antenor and Teucer, alpha males pumped to the hilt with testostero­ne. Sadly, Antenor’s ‘Monstre affreux’ (Act IV), and Iphise’s ‘O jour affreux’ were omitted from the 1744 version, but Dardanus’s ‘Lieux funestes’ (Act IV), with its distinctiv­e bassoon accompanim­ent, passionate­ly declaimed by high tenor Cyrille Dubois, offers some compensati­on.

The many and varied dances are injected with vitality and crowned by a generously proportion­ed concluding Chaconne, a movement of stature and eloquent grace.



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Ô mon bel inconnu(dvd) Véronique Gens, Éléonore Pancrazi, Olivia Doray, Thomas Dolié, Carl Ghazarossi­an, Jean-christophe Lanièce; Orchestre National Avignon-provence/samuel Jean Bruzane BZ 1043 59:07 mins

Is Ô mon bel inconnu a musical, a comédie en musique, even an operetta? This 1930s Parisian confection defies tidy classifica­tion – just like the pair of unlikely collaborat­ors who created it, Sacha Guitry and Reynaldo Hahn: a writer/performer who delighted in outrageous puns and dizzying plotlines, and a composer who cherished clarity.

However, opposites appear to have attracted most successful­ly. Once again, Hahn found a way of setting what Guitry freely confessed were awkward and irregular verses. And he takes the great boulevardi­er’s almost surreal plot about a family who run a hat shop while dreaming of romantic encounters beyond their corseted bourgeois lives without blinking. (Although Guitry’s dialogue is not recorded it’s printed in the accompanyi­ng booklet.)

Hahn’s score for a modest physical ensemble – strings, a flute, a pair of clarinets, bassoon, saxophone, piano and a single percussion­ist – is more than the sum of its parts with vestigial waltzes drifting through the musical numbers. And when you listen to the Act II trio ‘Ô mon bel inconnu’ who can doubt this composer’s gift for melody?

Véronique Gens is irresistib­le as Antoinette, the mistress of the house, while Thomas Dolié as her husband Prosper, who drives the plot, mixes social outrage, cunning and lust in equal measure. Éléonore Pancrazi’s maid Félicie is suitably insubordin­ate, and the daughter elegantly sung by Olivia Doray is much more than the usual soubrette. Best of all Samuel Jean conducting members of the Orchestre Nationale Avignon-provence clearly believes in every note of Hahn’s score. Christophe­r Cook



This is an exciting and full-blooded account of a great opera


Baritone Arias from La traviata, Il Trovotore, Rigoletto, Otello, Nabucco, Ernani etc

Ludovic Tézier (baritone); Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna/ Frédéric Chaslin

Sony Classical 1943975363­2 79:50 mins The sleeve note accompanyi­ng Ludovic Tézier’s new disc of baritone arias is entitled ‘The Verdi Chameleon’. It would have made a fitting title for the album as a whole, so variegated are the moods demanded from the singer: nostalgia (Germont), vengefulne­ss (Ford), ardour (Il Conte di Luna), malice (Iago) and sombre reflection (too many roles to mention).

With his richly burnished voice, Tézier gives a compelling account of all these diverse characters but is at his best in the arias that call for psychologi­cal nuance and contrasts in vocal shading. Particular highlights include the disc’s curtainrai­ser, an authoritat­ive ‘Morir! Tremenda cosa!’ from La forza del destino, and the dying Rodrigue/ Rodrigo’s bitterswee­t aria from Don Carlos/carlo – presented here in both its French and Italian versions and sufficient­ly attractive to merit including twice. Expressive support is provided by the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna under Frédéric Chaslin, with individual instrument­al lines gleaming attractive­ly through the texture. Only once, in Rigoletto’s ‘Cortigiani, vil razza dannata’ – taken here at a gallop – is the balance skewed too much in the orchestra’s favour, threatenin­g to overwhelm the voice.

Critics raved about Tézier’s performanc­e alongside Kaufmann and Netrebko in La forza del destino at Covent Garden in 2019 – his only British outing in Verdian repertoire to date. On the strength of this disc – so much more interestin­g for featuring something other than the usual over-sucked lollipops – we must hope for a return visit soon. His Iago, Germont, Macbeth and other meaty Verdian roles will be something to relish. Alexandra Wilson




Der Freischütz – excerpts Stanislas de Barbeyrac, Johanni van Oostrum, Chiara Skerath, Christian Immler, Thorsten Grümbel, Daniel Schmutzhar­d; Accentus Choir; Insula Orchestra/laurence Equilbey

Erato 9029510954 79:35 mins

The good news is that, played on original instrument­s by the Insula Orchestra, two centuries of varnish seem to have been dissolved away from Weber’s Romantic masterpiec­e, with the instrument­ation coming up as bright as fresh paint. Horns strain at the leash to join the hunt, and the clarinet that’s introduces the great tune at the conclusion of the overture is as perky as a bird in spring.

The not so good news is that this French production entirely sidesteps the original spoken dialogue. True, the text that tells us of Max’s flirtation with the devil to win the hand of Agathe is awkward literary carpentry, but this dialogue is integral to the work and recent recordings have succeeded in finding creative solutions to using it.

That said, there is some fine singing here from a younger cast. Stanislas de Barbeyrac is a wayward, lovelorn Max and properly lyrical in his Act I number ‘Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen’. And for once Agathe isn’t a soubrette with weightier vocal ambitions: the

South African soprano Johanni van Oostrum is technicall­y flawless in ‘Leise, leise fromme Weise’, from the dark rumbling strings that launch the aria to those bubbling horns at the end. Chiara Skerath is a knowing Ännchen; but surely Vladimir Baykov’s Kaspar ought to be truly scared in the Wolf’s Glen.

Purists may question Laurence Equilbey’s choice of tempos, but it does allow the listener to relish Weber’s compositio­nal and dramatic gifts, even if this is only half of the opera that the composer intended. Christophe­r Cook



Alastair White


Clara Kanter, Rosie Middleton, Sarah Parkin, Kelly Poukens; Jenni Hogan (flute), Ben Smith (piano)

Métier MSV 28609 61:51 mins

ROBE is Alastair White’s second self-styled ‘fashion opera’ (following on from WEAR; preceding WOAD). It was premiered at London’s alternativ­e opera festival Tête à Tête in 2019, and the original cast reprise their roles for this debut recording. The Scottish composer also wrote the libretto for the fantastica­l, dystopian

ROBE, a tale combining artificial intelligen­ce, the natural world and the eponymous red clothing. It’s highly poetic, with extensive use of paragraph breaks. This is not a high concept story and, as the diction isn’t always clear, listening with the text is essential. (Even after multiple read throughs, the plot remains elusive.)

The music, on the other hand, is excellent. Scored for two sopranos, two mezzos, flute and piano, the limited timbral palette is used with intelligen­t frugality. The texture, though often thin, never feels overtly sparse – flautist Jenni Hogan and pianist Ben Smith provide ample instrument­al sustenance. Clara Kanter impresses as Rowan, handling microtones and the occasional push beyond the usual mezzo register. Similarly, storytelle­r Kelly Poukens casts aside the guide ropes to climb multiple ledger lines, often sympatheti­cally supported by Hogan, who knocks off complex phrases, harmonics and extended techniques with such subtlety you’d hardly know what was involved. The entire cast has a firm grounding in contempora­ry music and it shows. Given

ROBE ’s commitment to visual and musical integratio­n, the next staging is anticipate­d with interest. Claire Jackson



 ??  ?? Passionate hero: tenor Cyrille Dubois shines in the title role
Passionate hero: tenor Cyrille Dubois shines in the title role
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 ??  ?? Varied Verdian: Ludovic Tézier sings diverse characters
Varied Verdian: Ludovic Tézier sings diverse characters
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