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Luigi CHERUBINI (1760-1842)
Lodoïska - Comédie héroique en trois actes (1791) [109:33]
Lodoïska - Natalie Manfrino (soprano); Lysinka - Hjördis Thébault (soprano); Floreski - Sébastien Guèze (tenor); Titzikan - Philippe Do (tenor); Varbel - Armando Noguera (baritone); Dourlinski - Pierre-Yves Pruvot (baritone); Altamoras - Alain Buet (bass-baritone)
Les Éléments; Le Cercle de l’Harmonie/Jérémie Rhorer
rec. Teatro la Fenice, Venice, 13 October 2010; Auditorium of Parco della Music, Rome, 15-16 October 2010
French text and English and Italian translations included
AMBROISIE AM209 [49:33 + 60:00] 

Lodoïska is a classic example of the “rescue opera” genre of which Fidelio is the pinnacle. It is based on an episode from a popular novel of the time, Les Amours du chevalier de Faublas by Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvray. The hero, Count Floreski, is attempting to rescue Lodoïska from the clutches of the wicked Baron Dourlinski who has her imprisoned in his castle at the start. Floreski achieves this with the help of Titzikan, a Tartar chieftain who is another enemy of the Barons. In synopsis the plot seems bald and improbable, and lacking in theatrical incident but I can readily imagine how effective it might be on stage in a sympathetic production. For instance much of the first Act consists of the meeting of Floreski and Titzikan and the Tartars so that the eventual sound of the heroine’s voice from the castle tower gains considerably in dramatic power.
 
The present recording derives from live performances and includes some, but by no means all, of the spoken dialogue of the original. It is not the first recording of the opera. An earlier version which I have not heard was conducted by Riccardo Muti with a more starry cast but lacked the main attraction of the present version - a particularly pungent-sounding period orchestra. When Cherubini’s scoring is so imaginative and so closely linked to the drama this counts for much, especially when the singing, by a largely French cast, can best be described as “committed”. That term covers both occasional weaknesses, the merits of clear diction and a clear understanding of the dramatic situation. Nonetheless for any listener prepared at times to take the intention for the deed and to use some creative imagination as to how it could sound there is much to enjoy here. The music is always interesting and imaginative, even if there are few moments which I find stick in the memory. Only occasionally did I feel any real emotional involvement in the drama. It still makes considerable impact and anyone with an interest in opera of this period should hear this set. The presentation is worthy of the project with admirable essays on Cherubini and this opera as well as the full text and translation.
 
Overall the merits and interest of the opera and the quality of its presentation here easily outweigh any shortcomings in the performance.  
John Sheppard