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Jacques OFFENBACH (1819 – 1880)
Les Contes d’Hoffmann (1881) – excerpts (sung in Hungarian).
Il était une fois, ŕ la cour d’Eisenach [5:18]
J’ai des yeux [1:32]
Non aucun hôte vraiment [2:02]
Les oiseaux dans la charmille [5:45]
Elle a fui, la tourterelle [4:36]
Jour et nuit [6:51]
C’est une chanson d’amour [3:05]
Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour [4:08]
Amis l’amour tender et ręveur [2:37]
Scintille diamant [2:53]
Malheureux … O Dieu de qu’elle ivresse [5:39]
Hëlas, mon Coeur [3:00]
Intermezzo [4:06]
Voilŕ quelle fut l’histoire … et mois? [6:42]
Róbert Ilosfalvy (tenor) – Hoffmann; Sándor Palescó (tenor) – Nathanael; György Radnai (baritone) – Coppelius; Dapertutto; Lindorf; Karola Ágay (soprano) – Olympia; Júlia Orosz (soprano) – Antonia; Árpád Kishegyi (tenor) – Frantz; Olga Szönyi (mezzo) – Niklausse; Gabriella Déry (soprano) – Giulietta; Stella; Miklós Petri (bass) – Schlemil; Endre Várhelyi (bass) – Luther; Tibor Nádas (bass) – Hermann; Edit Domján (speaking role) – The Muse; Hungarian Radio and Television Chorus and Orchestra/Miklós Erdélyi
rec. no date or location given. Historical recording from Hungarian Radio Archives. Publ. 1983. mono.
HUNGAROTON HCD12444 [56:22]
Experience Classicsonline

Hungary has produced quite a number of superb opera singers, many of whom have had important international careers. In recent years sopranos Eva Marton and Andrea Rost come to mind. In the tenor department the most famous is probably Sándor Kónya, who among other things spent fourteen seasons at the Met, where – as well as at Bayreuth and Covent Garden – Lohengrin was one of his signature roles.
 
Konya was born in 1923. His slightly younger compatriot Róbert Ilosfalvy passed away in January this year (2009), aged 81. He too went international and had a stint at the Met. To the record-buying public he is probably best known for the 1969 recording of Roberto Devereux, opposite Beverly Sills. He also made recordings in Germany but it is valuable to have these excerpts from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, where he is excellent throughout. He proves brilliant as well as lyrical and with a deep understanding of the role. Considering that he was in his mid-fifties when the recording was made he sounds amazingly youthful. The Kleinzach song that opens the disc is sung with ardour and forward thrust and his duets with Antonia and Giulietta are splendid examples of vital tenor singing of a quality that can’t always be taken for granted.
 
He is surrounded by a highly competent supporting cast, none of which – with the exception of mezzo-soprano Olga Szönyi – are particularly well known outside Hungary. György Radnai sports a warm and rounded baritone, expressive but more lyrical than many singers assuming the roles of Hoffmann’s evil geniuses. Scintille diamant is uncommonly soft and mild, not as threatening as it should be but attractive even so. Árpád Kishegyi sings Frantz’s aria without too much clowning but with a sure sense for characterisation.
 
As Olympia, Karola Ágay manages to sound mechanical and impersonal though her technical prowess is impressive. Júlia Orosz is a middling Antonia whereas Gabriella Déry is a really good Giulietta.
 
Chorus and orchestra are excellent and Miklós Erdélyi leads the proceedings unerringly. The sense of theatre is also tangible, not least in the epilogue. The recording is mono but the sound is first class. It is sung in Hungarian but that’s no problem since the language is eminently singable.
 
The production is a worthy memorial to one of Hungary’s finest tenors.
 
Göran Forsling
 

 


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