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Sabine Devieilhe (soprano)
Les Siècles/François-Xavier Roth
with Marianne Crebassa (mezzo-soprano), Jodie Devos (soprano) & Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
rec. 2017, Les salles de répétition de la Philharmonie de Paris
Sung texts with English translation provided
ERATO 9029576772 [63.34]

Sabine Devieilhe’s new album, ‘Mirages’, will set the pulse racing of any lover of French opera and mélodie (song). Released on Erato, it is one of a flurry of recordings released in the last couple of years which pay homage to the golden era of French opera, among them, collections by Diana Damrau (Meyerbeer Grand Opera – Erato), Michael Spyres (Espoir – Opera Rara), Joyce El-Khoury (Écho – Opera Rara), Jonas Kaufmann (L'Opéra – Sony) and John Osborn (A Tribute to Gilbert Duprez – Delos).

In her promotional video on YouTube, Devieilhe explains that the title of the album ‘Mirages’ “references the idea that the human mind has the capacity to conjure up its own reality and fantasize around its own image of another world” or, to put it another way, the theme is “exotic – faraway worlds.” she has chosen fifteen arias and songs from nine French composers: a fascinating mix of the well-known and rarely encountered.

A versatile performer, Devieilhe sings baroque roles from Handel, Gluck and Rameau, some Mozart (including the Queen of the Night) through to Debussy and Poulenc, notably Sister Constance in Dialogues des Carmélites. There are also three arias from Delibes’ opera Lakmé, the latter being Devieilhe’s signature role which the soprano has sung in productions over the last five years at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, the Opéra de Toulon, the Opéra Grand, Avignon, and the Opéra Municipal de Marseille.

Devieilhe is in outstanding form and beguiles with her performance. The main attributes of her lyric coloratura voice are her composure and a purity of tone that shine like a beacon. Her soprano is very bright but avoids any tendency to tension or shrillness. Her steady line, prowess in coloratura and emphasis on the meaning of the text are special, too, although at times I am would like additional colour in the voice. She creates a highly effective atmosphere in the ‘Bell song’ and gives an abundance of meaning to the lesser known aria Tu m’as donné le plus doux rêve. Her rendition of the ‘Flower duet’ with Marianne Crebassa is simply exquisite, with Roth sensibly keeping the accompaniment in the background. This is surely one the finest accounts of the famous duet I’ve heard. Another highlight is the substantial aria À vos jeux, mes amis from Thomas’ Hamlet, in which Devieilhe exhibits great charm and excellent coloratura.

In the trio Celle qui vient est plus belle from Thaïs, Devieilhe, singing La Charmeuse, is joined by soprano Jodie Devos (Crobyle) and mezzo Marianne Crebassa (Myrtale), their voices blending together enchantingly. Of the melodies, my favourite performance is Koechlin’s Le Voyage to a text by Tristan Kingsor, which demonstrates how Devieilhe’s stunning voice is especially comfortable on high notes and how she shows the utmost care for the meaning of the text. Alexandre Tharaud is a sensitive pianist who never puts a foot wrong here or in any of the three mélodies he accompanies. Under its founder François-Xavier Roth, the period-instrument orchestra Les Siècles sounds fresh, vibrant and in full sympathy with Devieilhe.

The sound quality of this recording, made in Les salles de répétition de la Philharmonie de Paris, is of a high standard. Congratulations to Erato for ensuring that sung texts with English translations are provided. The presentation is first class, with the booklet including a note ‘Mirages’ by Devieilhe and a helpful and interesting essay entitled ‘Adents Mirages’ by Alain Perroux.  

Those wanting more of Sabine Devieilhe should hear her outstanding 2015 release ‘Mozart and the Weber Sisters’ on Erato, an album I own but haven’t reviewed.

Michael Cookson

André MESSAGER (1853-1929)
Madame Chrysanthème
1. Le jour sous le soleil béni [4:09]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Pelléas et Mélisande
2. Mes longs cheveux descendent [2:01]
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)
3. Où va la jeune Hindoue (Air des clochettes/Bell song) [7:26]
Maurice DELAGE (1879-1961)
Quatre poèmes hindous:
4. Madras: Une belle [2:24]
5. Lahore: Un sapin isolé [3:46]
6. Benares: Naissance de Bouddha [1:33]
7. Jeypur: Si vous pensez à elle [1:31]
8. La romance d'Ariel [4:22]
9. Viens, Mallika... Sous le dôme épais (Duo des fleurs/Flower duet) [5:40]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Le Rossignol (The Nightingale)
10. Ah, joie, emplis mon cœur (Chanson du rossignol) [3:32]
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)
11. À vos jeux, mes amis [11:49]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
12. La Mort d'Ophélie [5:39]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
13. Celle qui vient est plus belle [4:19]
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)
Huit mélodies sur des poésies de T. Klingsor (Shéhérazade) (Book 2), Op. 84
14. Le Voyage, Op. 84/2 [2:58]
15. Tu m’as donné le plus doux rêve [2:22]
Sabine Devieilhe (soprano)
Les Siècles / François-Xavier Roth
With Jodie Devos (soprano) (track 13); Marianne Crebassa (mezzo-soprano) (tracks 9, 13) &
Alexandre Tharaud (piano) (tracks 8, 12, 14)



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