GRAMOPHONE AWARDS SHORTLIST 2023
Voice & Ensemble
Award sponsored by
Donizetti . Rossini ‘French Bel Canto Arias’ Donizetti La fille du régimenta – C’en est donc fait … Salut à la France; Il faut partir. Lucie de Lammermoor – Gilbert … Ô fontaine … Que n’avons-nous des ailes?. Les martyrs – Ô ma mère … Qu’ici ta main glacée bénisse ton enfant Rossini Le Comte Orya – En proie à la tristesse … Céleste providence. Guillaume Tell – Ils s’éloignent enfin … Sombre forêt. Le siège de Corinthea – L’heure fatale approche … Juste ciel; Que vais-je devenir? … Du séjour de la lumière Lisette Oropesa sop aDresden State Opera Chorus; Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra / Corrado Rovaris Pentatone (PTC5186 955 Í • 65’) Includes texts and translations
For her second solo album, Lisette Oropesa combines her love for both the
French language and Italian music in an exploration of arias and extracts from operas by Rossini and Donizetti which were either written specifically for performance in Paris (Guillaume Tell, La fille du régiment) or revised and recast to librettos in the new language. As one might expect, it’s a recording of great beauty and intelligence, superbly done from start to finish, and carefully reminding us that revising a work for Paris frequently necessitated a combination of rewriting and, on occasion, drastic self-borrowing.
Donizetti’s Les martyrs (from the Italian Poliuto) and Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe, the latter reworking the relatively unsuccessful Maometto II, are not simple translations of Italian originals but independent works, different in emphasis and meaning. Oropesa gives us the fountain scene from Lucie de Lammermoor, for instance, which is radically different from Lucia’s ‘Regnava nel silenzio’. Alisa has become the retainer Gilbert, a tenor, and the spectre that threatens the lovers is no longer the spirit of a woman murdered in a fit of jealousy but the ‘insatiable phantom’ of
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the Ashton-Ravenswood feud itself. The aria, ‘Que n’avons-nous des ailes’, is lifted from the earlier Rosmonda d’Inghilterra, and yearns for a love that transcends the constraints of temporal reality.
Oropesa’s thoughtful choice of repertory is balanced by performances of comparable insight and brilliance. She’s in wonderful voice throughout, her coloratura at once dazzling and expressive, her sense of line often flawless, text, character and emotions exactingly conveyed. The sweeping arpeggios and scales of Pamyra’s ‘Ô patrie, ô patrie infortunée!’ from Le siège de Corinthe, breathtaking in themselves, bristle with fierce indignation at the thought of the impending invasion of her country. The aria from Lucie floats upwards in graceful, rapt contemplation before Lucie’s thoughts of her impending meeting with Edgard launch a cabaletta that is as thrilling as it is ecstatic.
Oropesa’s warm middle and lower registers are heard to advantage in Pauline’s brief prayer from Les martyrs, where her legato is immaculate and the emotions at once immediate and contained, qualities we also find in ‘Sombre forêt’ from Guillaume Tell. We’re used to a slightly weightier tone here (Caballé, Freni, more recently Malin Byström), but the bittersweet mood is beautifully sustained. There’s humour and wit, too. Her Marie in La fille du régiment sounds sweet and touching when separated from Tonio and his regiment, but there’s a real surge of joy when they return and tangible exuberance when she reaches ‘Salut à la France’. Her Adèle in Le Comte Ory, meanwhile, is wonderfully funny. Again the coloratura is staggering, but the hints of selfdeception and self-pity that undercut the bravado are beautifully conveyed. We really could do with hearing her in the opera in its entirety.
As with her La traviata (also for Pentatone, 9/22), she’s paired with the Dresden Philharmonic, but in place of Daniel Oren, a stolid Verdian at best, the conductor here is the admirably idiomatic Corrado Rovaris. There’s plenty of stylish and shapely playing with some lovely woodwind obbligatos, though the Dresden Staatsoper Chorus are placed too far back in a recording that is otherwise finely balanced. It’s a marvellous recital from a lovely artist, though, and highly recommended. Tim Ashley
Massenet ‘Songs with Orchestra’ À Colombinea. Amoureuseb. Baiserimpromptuc. Chant provençalc. Les enfantsd. Les Érinnyes – Scène religieuse. Les fleurse. Hymne d’amoura. L’improvisatore (Rimembranza di Trastevere)b. Je t’aimeb. Marquisec. On dit!f. Pensée d’automneg. Pensée de printempsg. Pitchounetteg. Poème pastoral – Aurorec; Crépusculed; Musetted. Le poète et le fantômef. Rêverie de Colombine. Si tu veux, Mignonned. Soeur d’électionf. Souvenez-vous, Vierge Marie! (Prière de Saint Bernard)f. Thérèse – Menuet d’amour. La vie de bohème – La chanson de Musetteg be Nicole Car, dJodie Devos, fVéronique Gens, c Chantal Santon Jeffery sops gCyrille Dubois ten ae Étienne Dupuis bar Paris Chamber Orchestra / Hervé Niquet Bru Zane (BZ2004 • 67’ • T/t)
Massenet wrote over 300 songs during the course of his career, mostly with piano accompaniment, though he also orchestrated nearly 40 of them. In either version, they remain relatively little known, rarely recorded and in some cases still unpublished. There have, of course, been sporadic exceptions: Richard Bonynge, for instance, recorded some 20 of the piano originals with Huguette Tourangeau in the mid-1970s (Decca, 7/77). The orchestral versions, however, have received scant attention until now: of the 25 pieces included in Bru Zane’s beautiful new album, only four have been recorded before, and of those, two are brief instrumental numbers used as interludes between song groups.
You’re frequently left pondering the reason for their neglect. Certainly the much-voiced charge of ‘sugary gramophone.co.uk