One of the most grown-up review sites around

54,416 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             

Some items
to consider


paid for


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

FOGHORN Classics

Mozart Brahms
Clarinet Quintets

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat



Recordings of the Month


From Ocean’s Floor


Conner Riddle Songs

Rodzinski Sibelius

Of Innocence and Experience


Symphonies 1, 2, 3


CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Sapho - opera in five acts (1897) [129:28]
Fanny Legrand - an artist’s model (Sapho) - Renée Doria (soprano)
Jean Gaussin - Gines Sirera (tenor)
Divonne - Gisele Ory (mezzo)
Césaire - Adrien Legros (bass)
Irène - Elya Waisman (soprano)
Orchestre Symphonique de la Garde Républicaine/Roger Boutry
rec. March-April 1978, Salle Wagram, Paris, stereo. ADD
MALIBRAN CDRG 199 [67:26 + 62:02]

Experience Classicsonline

Few people nowadays have heard of Massenet’s Sapho. It has a lot going for it, but it hardly qualifies as a forgotten gem. The story bears striking similarities to elements of both La Traviata and La Rondine. Sapho is the pseudonym of Fanny Legrand, an artist’s model with a notorious reputation. She meets and falls in love with the impressionable young Jean, who is unaware of her past. When he finds out he leaves her for the bosom of his family in Provence and the innocent Irène, but he later regrets his decision and returns to Fanny. She accepts his apology but, when he falls asleep, she leaves him forever.
The plot has potential, but Verdi and Puccini had already explored its possibilities to the nthdegree and much of Massenet’s dramatic structure feels contrived. The whole of Act 4, for example, where Fanny goes to Avignon to plead with Jean’s family, is entirely unnecessary and there are other longueurs elsewhere. The scene with the most potential is the second of Act 3, where Jean reads the letters from Fanny’s former lovers before forcing her to burn them. There is proper drama there, though the music doesn’t quite manage to match it. Other aspects are attractive enough, including a touch of Provençal colour with Jean’s Act 1 aria, “Ce monde que je vois”, which then returns sung from a distance in Act 4. Mostly, though, Massenet’s style is declamatory and conversational, lacking the rich arcs of melody that characterise his greatest masterpieces, such as Manon and Werther. The piece contains very few proper arias or even ensembles. The music for Fanny and Jean’s love scene in Act 2 is pretty but hardly approaches the lyrical heights of other Massenet operas. Elsewhere, such as in the party scene of Act 1, the music comes across as somewhat clumsy. Small wonder, then, that it has never really found widespread favour, falling, as it does, half-way between old fashioned “number” opera and the more Wagnerian, through-composed style.
I am told that this recording originally appeared elsewhere but, for reasons that must remain mysterious, it has found itself re-released, with no contextual explanation, on the Malibran label. Unfortunately, the performance isn’t particularly good. The heroine Renée Doria sounds far too matronly to be a convincing harlot, and she is a touch on the shrill side too: her outburst at the end of Act 3, Scene 1, for example, sounds distinctly iffy! It’s the sort of role that you’d like to hear sung by the likes of Renée Fleming today. There are certain similarities of colour between Fleming’s and Doria’s voices, but Doria sounds, frankly, past it by the time this recording was made and the effortful quality of her voice is very off-putting. Gines Sirera has an appropriately French tone to his singing, lyrical and rounded with a slightly nasal twang. He doesn’t know the meaning of subtlety and he tends to bluster through each scene like a bull in a china shop. Elya Waisman as Irène is, if anything even more shrill than Doria, and there is no allure in her Act 2 duet with Jean. The playing of the orchestra is distinctly workmanlike, and altogether it feels as though very few people were sufficiently committed to the project, or that their efforts did not yield sufficient artistic results.
All things considered, then, this is probably a release for die-hard Massenet fans only. The world still awaits a decent recorded Sapho, but I doubt that anyone is in much of a hurry to commission a new one any time soon. The other consideration is that there is no documentation to speak of at all with the discs, bar a track list and cast list. There are no texts or translations, and not even a synopsis to help you on the way. Is that really good enough for an opera so little known?
Simon Thompson



























































































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.