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Isabelle Philippe - A Star is Born
Fromental HALÉVY (1799–1862)

Charles VI (1843)
1. act 2: Gloire au maïtre et gloire aux Chanteurs … Daignez vous faire entendre encore (Duet Isabeau de Bavière–Bedford) [16:02]
2. act 1: C’est votre fille … Oui Reine (Duet Isabeau de Bavière–Odette) [10:30]
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791–1864)

Dinorah (1859)
3. act 2: Me voici, me voici … Ombre légère (Dinorah’s romance and aria) [14:11]
4. act 2: Sombre destine, âme condamnée … J’ai déjà, il me semble, entendu cela (Air du val maudit) [3:22]
5. act 3: Ma maison? ma maison? … Oui, c’était un rêve (duet Dinorah–Hoël) [3:53]
Daniel François Esprit AUBER (1782–1871)

Haÿdée (1847)
6. Overture [1:49]
7. act 1: Tu ne me diras pas ton secret … Il en donc un! (Haÿdée’s couplets) [6:11]
8. act 2: A toi Domenico, chante nous une chanson (Couplets and chorus. Corvette’s aria) [3:50]
9. act 3: Je suis dans son palais! A Venise … chez lui … Pour punir pareille offense (Entr’acte and Haÿdée’s aria [9:36]
Isabelle Philippe (soprano)
Armando Noguera (1); Anne-Sophie Schmidt (2); Armand Arapian (5) and others; Orchestre Français Albéric Magnard/Miquel Ortega (Charles VI), Olivier Opdebeeck (Dinorah), Michel Swierczewski (Haÿdée)
rec. live, Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne, 2004 (Dinorah and Haÿdée); 2005 (Charles VI)
Artistic direction: Pierre Jourdan
Isabelle Philippe (soprano)

CASCAVELLE VEL 3105 [69: 28]



I would think that most readers browsing through the heading will mumble ‘never heard of it’ to most titles. On the other hand there’ll be a smile of recognition at the sight of Ombre légère, the Shadow Song from Dinorah. It should prompt memories of recordings by the great coloratura sopranos: Melba, Galli-Curci, Callas, Sutherland to mention a few. The rest of the music has led a life in shadow for a very long time, even though the composers should be well-known to opera lovers. Other works by them are occasionally seen and heard. Halévy’s greatest opera, La juive, was revived by the Vienna State Opera at the beginning of this decade with Neil Shicoff as Eleázar – also recorded by BMG – and there was an earlier recording on Philips with José Carreras. Meyerbeer’s spectacular grand opera Les Huguenots has also been up and Decca made a recording around 1970 with Joan Sutherland. Even L’Africaine with its famous tenor aria O Paradis is sometimes produced. Of Auber’s many operas at least some stirring overtures can be heard from time to time. His comic masterpiece Fra Diavolo has had a couple of recordings, one of them with Nicolai Gedda in the title role.

Performing and recording several longer scenes and not just a ‘string of pearls’ aria sequence was a good idea from Cascavelle – or probably the artistic director Pierre Jourdan. The disc is a vehicle for coloratura soprano Isabelle Philippe, and she is good. Unfortunately everyone is recorded very close, which lessens the impact when the singers literally creep into your lap while the orchestra is somewhere next door. One automatically adjusts to the perspective and there is a certain thrill in being face to face with the artists. Let me also say that the singing is very accomplished. Isabelle Philippe has an agreeable, beautiful voice, impeccable technique and she also brings out the nuances admirably. Her high notes are spot-on – no question of sliding up to them, and she has obvious dramatic instinct. Whether she is a good actor with the voice is another matter: on this hearing there is little differentiation between the characters. This doesn’t matter that much, nor do we know what they really sing about. According to a note in the booklet texts in French and English should be available on but I couldn’t find them.

The reason why these operas fell into oblivion may very well be that they were not good enough musically, that the librettos were weak or just that the stories and/or the musical style went out of fashion. Today it is welcome that we have this music in such committed performances. There may be no hidden masterpieces here but even the ‘merely’ good has an intrinsic value. Mademoiselle Philippe’s various colleagues sing well in duets and ensembles but it is Mademoiselle herself that should be the main reason for acquiring this disc. The enthusiastic audiences also seem to think so, since there are bouts of copious and even furious applause. I regret though that the booklet doesn’t have anything to say about the music. I am pretty sure that it has nothing to but I cannot be absolutely certain as the minuscule text (white against dark) is of the kind that demands a magnifying-glass.

Don’t let this deter you from lending this disc an ear; both Isabelle Philippe and the music deserve it.

Göran Forsling


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