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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

 

Massenet (1842-1912) - Ballet Music from 'Le Cid'

French audiences certainly liked their ballet, to the extent that they insisted all their operas include a ballet-divertimento (presumably to relieve the tedium?). Even Wagner was expected to comply. This obligation, for the Paris performance of Tannhäuser, he met by revising the end of the overture, and thereby preserving unrelieved the succeeding three hours of tedium. 

Massenet's opera, of 1885, was based on Pierre Corneille's tragedy recounting the story of “Le Cid”, the nickname of a famous Twelfth Century Spanish warrior (whose real name, I seem to recall, was Charlton Heston). Massenet, of course, placed his ballet-divertimento slap-bang in the middle of the opera. The scene is a gathering of people in the Great Square of Burgos, providing the flimsy excuse for an utterly irrelevant celebration of the diversity of Spanish provincial dances. Among the titles, (Castillane - Andalouse - Aragonaise - Aubade - Catalane -  Madrilène - Navarraise), only “Aubade” seems to lack any provincial connotation, largely on account of its being a “morning dance”. 

The music is extremely beautifully crafted, capturing the vibrant sensuality of Spanish folk styles as convincingly as any non-Spaniard (even Ravel!). Packed with mesmerising rhythms, lustrous colour, and some absolutely peachy tunes, this music is sheer delight from first to last.
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© Paul Serotsky
29, Carr Street, Kamo, Whangarei 0101, Northland, New Zealand


 

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