> Massenet Herodiade 74321795972 [IL]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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HOFFNUNG for CHRISTMAS? an ideal Christmas present for yourself or your friends.
Books posted the day the order is received

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Wiener Staaatsoper Live
John the Baptist ..Placido Domingo
Herod.. Juan Pons
Hérodiade.. Agnes Baltsa
Salomé.. Nancy Gustafson
Phanuel..Ferruccio Furlanetto
Vitellius.. Hans Helm
High Priest.. David Calne Johnson
A Voice..Ruben Broitman
Chorus of the Wiener Staatsoper
Orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper
Conducted by Marcello Viotti
Recorded Live by the Austrian Radio (ORF) on 12th February 1995
RCA Red Seal/ BMG 2 CDs 74321-79597-2 [137:17] Midprice


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Hérodiade was a high point in Massenetís creative career. It was first performed in Brussels on 19 December 1881. A crowded train of Massenet fans travelled from Paris for the premiere. They were not disappointed; it was a triumph beyond their expectations and, indeed, Hérodiade was given in Brussels 55 times the first year. In the Massenet opera cannon, Hérodiade comes between Le Roi de Lahore (1877) and his greatest success, Manon (1884). It taps a rich and sustained vein of melody.

Hérodiade is somewhat different to Oscar Wildeís vision of Salomé. In Massenetís opera she had been deserted as a child by her mother, Hérodiade who is reviled by John the Baptist for her forbidden incestuous love for Herod. (Herod had taken Hérodiade, the wife of his brother, as his own). Now, their love cooled, Herod is lusting after Salomé not knowing that the younger woman is his wifeís daughter. But Salomé is in love with John the Baptist (and he, in turn, realises he has tender feelings for her) and she pleads for his life when the Jewish priests and the Roman Tetrarch, Vitellius, condemn him. In the Massenet opera Salomé does not shed those veils: she is in fact a good girl, torn between hatred for her motherís desertion and the need for her affection. Far from asking for Johnís head on a platter she wants to die for him!

This live Austrian radio recording from the Wiener Staatsoper has great power and immediacy. The recorded sound is very good. As one might expect the Middle Eastern setting gave Massenet every opportunity for imaginative exotic harmonies and orchestrations. He seized every chance. There are majestic Roman marches with stirring fanfares, zealous Jewish choruses, and sacred dances and atmospheric and evocative set pieces. Placido Domingo is on top form, vehement in his derision of the iniquitous royals, noble and stoic in his defiance of them, and in defence of his faith, and tender in his acceptance of Saloméís affections (although his returned love for her is of the purest). Agnes Baltsa in the title role rages and shreds the scenery in her jealous rages against her errant husband. Juan Pons treads very well the fine line between conviction and caricature as the lustful and ultimately exasperated Herod while Nancy Gustafson is an appealing Salomé torn between revulsion for Hérodiade and the need for her love.

A gripping production of one of Massenetís best operas full of passion and melody with Domingo on top form supported by a strong cast.

Ian Lace

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