Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Le docteur Miracle (1857)
Laurette: Christiane Eda-Pierre (soprano); Le Podestat (Mayor): Robert Massard (baritone); Sylvio/Pasquin/Docteur Miracle: Rémy Corazza (tenor); Véronique: Lyliane Guillot (mezzo).
Speakers: Catherine Salviat, René Camion, Claire Viret, Alain Praion.
Orchestra of Radio France/Bruno Amaducci.
rec. live broadcast, 1 March 1976, Paris.
OPERA D’ORO GRAND TIER OPD 7077 [51:57]
I imagine that it is the rarity value of this operetta that encouraged Opera d'Oro to issue this muffled radio broadcast from 1976; still more surprising was their decision to offer a second de luxe version with a partial libretto under their "Grand Tier" label when you can get it under their usual bargain label. If you don't speak French, this presents you with a dilemma, as your enjoyment will be enhanced by having the text but the quality of this recording militates against spending much on it: a low hum and an intermittent whistling persist throughout; often upper frequencies disappear and the proceedings can sound very dim and muddy indeed, especially towards the end.
The de luxe packaging is absurdly overdone: the whole thing, single CD, libretto, notes, synopsis and all will happily slide into a single CD case and hardly needs a double jewel box and cardboard slipcase - even Rafal Olbinski's trendy, surreal artwork is included in the leaflet so you don't need the latter.
Apart from the sound, a further irritation resides in that favourite and inexplicable flaw so frequently heard in recordings where spoken dialogue alternates with sung material: a total mismatch between the actors' and singers' voices. The actor voicing Le Podestat (the Mayor) growls and grumbles his lines with maximum over-emphasis yet the corresponding singer, Robert Massard, has an exceptionally suave and mellifluous baritone; the discrepancy in the celebrated "Omelette quartet" between the spoken ejaculation "Execrable!" and Massard's taking up of the tune could hardly be more absurd. As it is, much of the spoken dialogue is omitted from the libretto but the plot is simplicity itself, with elements familiar from more celebrated operas concerning the efforts of young lovers to circumvent their elders' attempts to keep them apart such The Barber of Seville and of course operas featuring “medical miracles” such as L’elisir d’amore and Così fan tutte.
My final annoyance is in fact immediately apparent: apparently the source tape was missing the opening thirty or so bars so the overture is gradually faded in.
Having adumbrated the disadvantages, I must redress the balance by confirming that there is much light, charming music to delight here. Written when Bizet was only eighteen years old and based on a French adaptation of Richard Brinsley Sheridan's "St Patrick's Day", Le docteur Miracle contains echoes of Rossini and passages anticipatory of Carmen; the greatest pleasure comes from the lively ensembles. All four singers are accomplished artists, especially Massard, the epitome of elegant French baritones. Christiane Eda-Pierre’s creamy, plaintive soprano occasionally skirts a certain under-the-note quality but she is an accomplished and touching singer with an excellent trill; her aria "Ne me grondez pas" is reminiscent of Teresa's aria "Je vais le voir" from Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini which Eda-Pierre recorded under Colin Davis. Lyliane Guitton is excellent as Véronique and Rémy Corazza a bit bleaty in the tenor role but wholly in genre; his voice reminds me very much of Welsh tenor Ryland Davies. The Radio France orchestra is rather dimly recorded but plays well and Amaducci's conducting is idiomatic.
It's a pity that its recorded sound compromises this fluffy but enjoyable rarity. It’s still worth acquiring for its intrinsic, Gallic charm and the quality of the performance.
Worth acquiring for its intrinsic, Gallic charm and the quality of the performance.