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Meyerbeer’s first French opera from Marc Minkowsky, Palazetto Bru Zane and Bordeaux Opera

Meyerbeer Robert le Diable; John Osborn, Nicolas Courjal, Amina Edris, Erin Morley, Nico Darmanin, Orchestra National de Bordeau Aquitaine; Palazzo Bru Zane

Meyerbeer Robert le Diable; John Osborn, Nicolas Courjal, Amina Edris, Erin Morley, Nico Darmanin, Orchestra Nationwide de Bordeaux Aquitaine; Palazzetto Bru Zane
Reviewed 8 November 2022 (★★★★★)

Meyerbeer’s first French opera lastly receives the kind of fashionable recording that it deserves with a solid bringing aptitude and magnificence to the music, together with Minkowski’s clever route.

Having recorded a choice of the byways of French grand opera, Palazzetto Bru Zane has lastly taken the plunge and recorded one of many prime movers within the style, Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable with forces from the Opéra Nationwide de Bordeaux, performed by Marc Minkowski with John Osborn as Robert, Nicolas Courjal as Bertram, Amina Edris as Alice, Erin Morley as Isabelle and Nico Darmanin as Raimbaut.

Meyerbeer’s Robert le Diable was the primary of his large-scale French operas that ushered within the composer’s efficient domination of French Grand Opera style. and created his worldwide movie star. Having spent eight years in Italy, Meyerbeer arrived in Paris in 1826 for the French premiere of his Italian opera Il crociato in Egitto and remained there. He didn’t throw himself into opera instantly, however lastly he took the plunge with Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne because the librettists. Robert le Diable was initially deliberate as a three-act opera comique, however Meyerbeer persuaded Scribe to show it right into a five-act grand opera. This entailed some modifications, decreasing the basically comedian position of Raimbaut (who vanishes after Act Three within the remaining model). The opera premiered on the Paris Opera in 1831, following on from Auber’s La muette de Portici (1828) and Rossini’s Guillaume Inform (1829) to usher in a outstanding age of Grand Opera, with Auber’s Gustave III (1833), Halevy’s La Juive (1835) and Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots (1836).

Although these days we would regard the plot as one thing of a curiosity, in truth Meyerbeer and Scribe have been tapping into the new matters of the day. In 1830, the reactionary regime of King Charles X and its makes an attempt to recreate the Ancien Regime led to a revolution. Was it fascinating to return to the Center Ages? And the concept of man’s need for liberty was mirrored in Robert’s sheer helplessness. Meyerbeer’s contemporaries understood the work as a parable for the age. Scribe’s libretto mixes in quite a lot of influences, the story of the adventurous improvement of a younger hero encompasses the comedian, an evocation of Center Ages (very a lot au courant on the time), Romanticism and even Gothic, then there’s the component of sin and salvation, the journey of a soul.  So, we’ve Robert’s confrontation together with his demon father Bertram and his angelic mom by way of Alice his foster sister, which develops into the dramatic remaining act, the place his beloved, Princesse Isabelle (the picture of excellent womanhood) persuades him onto the proper path.  

There was additionally one other component, the scandalous. The reviewer for the Revue des Deux-Mondes describes the well-known Act Three ballet of the nuns:

A crowd of mute shades glides by way of the arches. All these ladies solid off their nuns’ costume, they shake off the chilly powder of the grave; out of the blue they throw themselves into the delights of their previous life; they dance like bacchantes, they play like lords, they drink like sappers. What a pleasure to see these gentle ladies.

It’s, frankly, a combination that we don’t fairly respect these days (witness the essential response to Covent Backyard’s woeful 2012 manufacturing of the opera, see the overview in The Guardian and my very own overview), however on disc we could be much less involved with dramaturgy and extra with the musical values. Meyerbeer’s won’t have been a musical innovator, however he was a supreme synthesiser. Right here we’ve Rossinian parts alongside different types and influences, together with a shocking curiosity in giant scale buildings, to not point out the fantastic Gothic parts and over the entire, Meyerbeer shouldn’t be dogmatic, the shape is as fluid because the libretto. And we’ve to do not forget that the opera was conceived of as an early proponent of Wagner’s thought of the entire murals, the visible spectacle, the scenes of vivid stage drama and imaginative dramatic moments, have been vital too.

The recording was made in affiliation with live performance performances of the opera in Bordeaux, utilizing a contemporary essential version of the opera. It’s a lengthy piece, and cuts have been made. None are damaging, and we nonetheless get lots of music although among the extra repetitious dance parts, as an illustration, are dropped. All of the cuts are clearly indicated within the libretto. The consequence nonetheless runs to slightly of three and half hours of music. And the solid might be as nice a one as we would want for. 

John Osborn makes for an interesting hero, comfy within the position’s tessitura and capable of swagger by way of the extra bravura parts (in case you can forgive slightly fuzziness on the edges typically) together with a nice, soft-grained mezza-voce which creates some beautiful moments. As his love curiosity, Erin Morley is a ravishing Isabella, producing roulades galore but managing to seduce and maintain our curiosity. And the fourth act is successfully devoted her collection of duets with Osborn’s Robert, the place we get a vigorously bravura duo interrupted by a young, lyrical cavatina. That is a type of moments of imaginative synthesis typical of Meyerbeer, and in addition a stunning melody in addition. 

Nicolas Courjal (the one Francophone singer amongst the principals) is Bertram, the good friend who seems to be the evil one, and Courjal manages to mix devilish swagger with a sense of seduction and voice filled with character. He’s terrific within the Valse Infernale in Act Three, and on this act, he has two vital confrontations, duos with Amina Edris’ Alice and John Osborn’s Robert. The primary managing to efficiently combine drama with bravura, the second filled with fantastic swaggering bravura.  Amina Edris makes a touching Alice with a vein of power which allows her to triumph on the finish. From the outset, Edris sings with a centered mellow tone and properly formed phrases, there’s a solidity to this Alice.

Round these three flow into a remarkably giant solid. However of those, solely Nico Darmanin’s Raimbaut will get an actual solo second, and Darmanin is splendidly partaking, seizing our curiosity from the very starting of his opening ballade that units out the story.

The result’s much more dramatically partaking than I had remembered from reside efficiency. Act Three actually advantages from the trimming down of the ballet parts, in order that it has much more of a coherent sweep to it.

Act III's Ballet of the Nuns in the 1831 première production
Act III’s Ballet of the Nuns within the 1831 première manufacturing

The solid is especially worldwide artists (American, Egyptian/New Zealand, Maltese) however the French is beautiful, clear and expressive. Minkowski and the orchestra are nothing wanting heroic, the music actually doesn’t play itself and the conductor clearly has an important love and understanding for this fashion, one thing that comes over loud and clear. What I used to be interested by is how Minkowski manages to imbue drama into the extra rum-ti-tum parts in Meyerbeer’s repertoire, the occasions when the music can lapse into one thing that could be very interval. Right here the fashion is correct, we do not giggle, Minkowski exhibits us that this can be a product of its occasions.

The orchestra is giant, 4 bassoons, six horns, 5 trumpets, 5 trombones, two tubas/ophicleides, two harps and even an organ. It’s the first of Meyerbeer’s French scores the place he takes full benefit of the sources of the Paris Opera and here’s a rating filled with fantastic colors and creativeness.

The disc advantages Bru Zane’s typical care with accompany parts, so we’ve a nice article by Robert Letellier introducing Meyerbeer and Robert le Diable, and explaining precisely what was particular about it, together with a second article by Pierre Sérié that brings out the visible component of the unique manufacturing.

It’s worthwhile remembering fairly how early this work is. Bellini’s Norma would solely seem in 1831 and the work that catapulted Donizetti to fame, Anna Bolena was solely showing in 1830. Meyerbeer was constructing on the achievements of Rossini (his virtually precise up to date) and Auber to create a brand new operatic fashion for France, one which was massively influential with later composers. If the fashion doesn’t fairly have the complicated integrity of later nineteenth century operas that the composer influenced, then we must always not maintain it in opposition to Meyerbeer. This beautiful recording helps to see issues in context and options nice, virtuoso singing allied to partaking performances.

Meyerbeer: Robert le Diable
John Osborn – Robert
Nicolas Courjal – Bertram
Amina Edris – Alice
Erin Morley – Isabelle
Nico Darmanin – Raimbaut
Joel Allison – Alberti/Priest
Paco Garcia – Herald
Orchestra Nationwide Bordeaux Aquitaine
Choeur de l’Opera Nationwide de Bordeaux
Marc Minkowski (conductor)

Recorded 20 to 27 September 2021, Opera Nationwide de Bordeaux
PALAZZETTO BRU ZANE 3CDs [78.36, 80.17, 58.15]

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