Like its predecessor with Italian opera excerpts this is a
rather mixed bag vocally and also repertoire-wise. It is valuable
for the opportunity to hear quite a lot of music from rare operas.
Native French speakers are in short supply here, unfortunately,
but that’s only to be expected from an Italian label.
The opening number is also the earliest recording, from 1983.
It finds Montserrat Caballé still near the height of
her powers. She sings strongly and with confidence and also
enchants with her characteristic fine-spun pianissimo notes.
The aria is beautiful. Salieri would have been much better known
today if he hadn’t been contemporary with Mozart.
The Meyerbeer aria is less obscure, although the complete opera
is a relatively rare guest at today’s opera houses. Desirée
Rancatore sings sensitively, phrases musically and her pianissimo
top notes are almost in the Caballé division, but her
singing is seriously marred by an insistent beat on held notes.
Gounod’s La Reine de Saba is another rarity. Goldmark’s
opera on the same theme is arguably somewhat better known and
it has even been bestowed a complete recording. Gounod’s
music is always agreeable on the ear and Lee is an attractive
lyrical tenor with good legato, though not much variety of vocal
colour and nuance and his top notes are pinched.
More rarities. From Massenet’s Roma we get the
beautiful prelude to act III with flute solo instead of the
violin solo in the famous Meditation from Thaïs.
The unnamed flautist plays very well and he is also heard in
the tenor aria that follows. In the distance we also hear a
soprano. Mok has a fine spinto tenor but has a tendency to press
a little too much. There is a postlude with luscious string
Both ladies in the duet from Chérubin have vibrant
voices and when they sing together they tend to jar against
each other. A couple of male voices are also heard; not too
good, I’m afraid. The opera is a kind of sequel to Le
nozze di Figaro. The title role was sung at the premiere
by Mary Garden and besides this recording - all the excerpts
are culled from Dynamic’s extensive catalogue of complete
operas - there was/is a complete studio recording by RCA from
1991 with Frederica von Stade in the title role.
Gounod’s Polyeucte is another find that has been
dusted off and found interesting. Well, it should be, considering
that the libretto was by Barbier and Carré. Yes, you
recognize the successful duo who also wrote Faust,Romeo
et Juliette,Mignon,andHamlet. On his
own Barbier was also responsible forLes Contes d’Hoffmann.
Gounod is said to have had a special fondness for Polyeucte
but it was among the least successful of his operas. This aria
is well worth hearing. It is obviously the end of an act, maybe
the end of the opera. There is a baritone also present and the
chorus is superb. Aha, Bratislava Chamber Choir! You rarely
hear such homogenous sound and such sophisticated phrasing from
an opera chorus. The tenor is strong but could have learnt a
thing or two about sophistication from the choir.
I have heard Ana Maria Sánchez in better shape than here
in the aria from Le Roi de Lahore. She is over-vibrant
and shrill at the top.
The romance from Les Pêcheurs de Perles is a favourite
aria and any tenor essaying it comes up against singers like
Gigli (my first recording of it), Gedda and Simoneau. Jasu Nakajima’s
is a prosaic reading and lacks the lyrical elegance of those
mentioned. Annick Massis’s O dieu Bráhma
is much better and she tosses off some brilliant top notes.
The dramatic scene from Le Roi d’Ys is a fine piece.
The singers are hardly in the elite league but the music is
definitely worth a listen.
The Meditation from Thaîs is just as well known
as the Pêcheurs aria. The un-credited violin soloist
is so much better than many of the singers on this issue. The
strings of the orchestra are also worth standing ovations.
The final number on this disc is from Werther, and since
this is the Italian version Werther is a baritone. Thus the
vocal line is adjusted downwards in several places. The thrill
of the original is no doubt diminished, but the singer is quite
good and has ringing top notes. He sings at a more or less constant
The quality of the recordings vary, the Polyeucte extract
being above average. There are no notes, just a track-list.
Montserrat Caballé is the outstanding singer but the
collection is worth considering for the many rarities on offer.
Antonio SALIERI (1750
1. Par les larmes dont votre fille [2:38]
Montserrat Caballé (soprano), Orchestra Sinfonica di
Roma della RAI/Gianluigi Gelmetti
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791
2. O beau pays [5:39]
Desirée Rancatore (soprano), Orchestre Internazionale
Charles GOUNOD (1818
La Reine de Saba
3. Faiblesse de la race humaine [6:05]
Jean-Won Lee (tenor), Orchestre Internazionale d’Italia/Manlio
Jules MASSENET (1842
4. Prelude to Act III [3:51]
5. Je vais la voir ... Soir admirable [4:28]
Warren Mok (tenor), Orchestre Internazionale d’Italia/Marco
6. Nina! Chérubin! [9:26]
Carmela Remigio (soprano), Michelle Breedt (mezzo), Orchestra
of the Teatro Lirico di Cagliari/Emmanuel Villaume
7. Maître suprême [4:42]
Giorgio Casciarri (tenor), Orchestre Internazionale d’Italia,
Bratislava Chamber Choir/Manlio Benzi
Le Roi de Lahore
8. J’ai fui la chambre nuptiale [6:42]
Ana Maria Sánchez (soprano), Orchestra of the Teatro
La Fenice di Venezia/Marcello Viotti
Georges BIZET (1838 -
Led Pêcheurs de Perles
9. Je crois entendre encore [5:20]
10. O dieu Bráhma [5:48]
Jasu Nakajima (tenor), Annick Massis (soprano), Orchestra and
Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia/Marcello Viotti
Edouard LALO (1823 -
Le Roi d’Ys
11. Je reviendrai bientôt, mon père [4:55]
Guylaine Girard (soprano), Giuseppina Piunti (mezzo), Sébastien
Guèze (tenor), Eric Martin-Bonnet (baritone), Orchestra
and Chorus of the Opéra Royal de Wallonie/Patrick Davin
12. Meditation [5:57]
Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia/Marcello Viotti
Werther (Italian version)
13. Ah, non mi ridestar [3:27]
Luca Grassi (baritone), Orchestre Internazionale d’Italia/Jean-Luc
rec. live, 1983-2008