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Elsa Dreisig (soprano)
Orchestre National de Montpellier Occitanie/Michael Schønwandt
rec. 2018, Corum, Montpellier, France
Full sung texts with English translations provided
ERATO 9029563413 [70.22]

On Erato for her debut album with orchestra, titled Miroir(s) soprano Elsa Dreisig has created an attractive and engaging ten aria collection from the operas of seven composers. There is a common thread running through the collection, which is the perspective taken by pairs of two composers of the same heroines. For example, arias for the heroines – Manon Lescaut by Puccini and Massenet; Juliette by Steibelt and Gounod; Rosina by Mozart and Rossini; Salomé by Massenet and Richard Strauss. There is also another pair of arias sung by heroines Marguerite and Thaïs, both captivated by the looking glass or mirror and seen from the viewpoint of Gounod and Massenet. The notes state that two of the arias are world première recordings: Steibelts Je vais donc usurper les droits de la nature from Roméo et Juliette and from Gounods opera of the same name Viens, Ô liqueur mystérieuse!, the short cantabile that originally preceded Amour, ranime mon courage.

As an admirer of French opéra of the Romantic period I’m particularly drawn to Dreisig’s collection. There are six arias that predominantly fit the French Romantic description, plus one aria by Richard Strauss in a French version and three arias in Italian from Mozart, Rossini and Puccini, one from each composer. Only last week I wrote how collections of French Romantic arias seem very much in vogue and I listed a number of outstanding albums released since 2015. In the last few weeks I have reviewed two impressive collections both on Alpha Classics: Offenbach Colorature an album of French Romantic arias from soprano Jodie Devos, marking the two hundredth anniversary of Offenbach (review); and Confidence the album from tenor Julien Behr also a collection of French Romantic aria (review).

In the lyric coloratura role of Marguerite from Faust the famous Jewel Song is eminently suited to Dreisig, as she communicates the joy of seeing herself in the mirror wearing jewels. This has to be my highlight of the set, as Dreisig is in entirely charming and engaging voice, not over-bright, revealing an efficacious vibrato and persuasive coloratura production. In the concluding section, her high notes are impressively achieved and securely held. Entirely convincing as the tragic heroine of Gounods Roméo et Juliette, Dreisig appears to be living the lyric coloratura role. In Amour, ranime mon courage she generates drama. Her voice doesn’t wilt under pressure and is able to cut through the weight orchestral sound. Dreisig demonstrates engaging singing, with distinct freshness and quite lovely purity, in the lyric role of Countess Rosina Almaviva, lamenting her husband’s infidelity in the famous aria Porgi, amor from Le nozze di Figaro. With the Puccini aria In quelle trine morbide, as the tragic heroine Manon Lescaut, Dreisig is rather less suited to the light dramatic soprano (spinto) demands. The voice does show some strain as she pushes. Nevertheless, Dreisig’s performance displays her lovely tone, generating a strong sense of wistfulness and regret, as she realises Geronte has given her everything (materially), except his love. It’s strange hearing Dreisig singing Ah! Tu nas pas voulu… from Richard Strauss’s Salomé in the generally unfamiliar French version (the language of Oscar Wilde’s original 1891 play). With her voice under substantial and consistent pressure, Dreisig stands up surprisingly well to this tremendously challenging dramatic soprano role, as the heroine singing with erotic passion to the severed head of John, the Baptist.

Under Michael Schønwandt the Orchestre National de Montpellier Occitanie generally performs well, although often I wanted additional colour, and I’m not sure it’s suited to the considerable stylistic challenges presented by Strauss’s Salomé. Recorded at Corum, Montpellier, France I felt largely satisfied with the warm sound. It has reasonable clarity and is not over-close, although on occasions, the weight of orchestral sound comes close to drowning out Dreisig. Beautifully presented, this album contains a fascinating essay by Alexandre Dratwicki (musicological director of Palazzetto Bru Zane), packed with interesting information. There are also stylish examples from a photo shoot of Dreisig. I’m delighted to report that full sung texts are provided, with English translations helpfully placed alongside.

Elsa Dreisig shows tremendous promise with Miroir(s), an engaging and well-chosen opera aria collection. I’m already looking forward to her next album.

Michael Cookson

Deux Miroirs
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
1. Air des bijoux - Ah! je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir (Faust) [6.24]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
2. Dis-moi que je suis belle (Thaïs) [7.03]
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
3. In quelle trine morbide (Manon Lescaut) [2.40]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
4. Allons, il le faut!... Adieu, notre petite table (Manon) [4.08]
Daniel STEIBELT (1765-1823)
5. Je vais donc usurper les droits de la nature (Roméo et Juliette) [7.26]
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
6. Dieu! Quel frisson court dans mes veines?… Viens, Ô liqueur mystérieuse! … Amour, ranime mon courage (Roméo et Juliette) [11.01]
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
7. Una voce poco fa (Il barbiere di Siviglia) [6.14]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
8. Porgi, amor (Le nozze di Figaro) [3.52]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
9. Il est doux, il est bon (Hérodiade) [5.04]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
10. Ah! Tu nas pas voulu (Salomé) [16.24]


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