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Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)
Gli amori di Teolinda (1815)
Lenneke Ruiten (soprano), Davide Bandieri (clarinet)
Chorus of L’Opéra de Lausanne
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra/Diego Fasolis
rec. live at Opéra de Lausanne, Switzerland, November 8, 2019
Text and French translation included
CLAVES CD3010 [38:58]

My MWI colleague Nick Fuller, in his Giacomoi Meyerbeer: A Listening Guide, says this of Gli Amori di Teolinda:
“His [Meyerbeer’s] first major work for Italy was the dramatic cantata Gli amori di Teolinda (Venice, 1815), a virtuoso piece for soprano and clarinet, written for the clarinetist Heinrich Baermann and the soprano Helene Harlas. The only commercial recording stars Julia Varady and the clarinetist Jorg Fadle under the baton of Gerd Albrecht in Berlin, 1981 (Orfeo – C 054 831 A). The work has also been performed by Nelly Miricioiu in Utrecht in 1998 with Emma Johnson on clarinet, and in Tel Aviv in 2003 (YouTube).”

The piece is also described as a pastoral cantata. In this performance, the soprano Lenneke Ruiten is joined by the principal clarinettist of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, Davide Bandieri. The experienced Diego Fasolis leads the Lausanne CO in a performance of the utmost suavité, a trait clearly heard in the extended Introduction. Lenneke Ruiten is brilliantly convincing in her delivery of the text. The other ‘character’, the clarinet as instrumental manifestation of Teolinda’s beloved Armidoro, is – if anything – even more expressive as delivered by Bandieri. The extended concertante passages are an absolute joy. The chorus of shepherds, courtesy of the Chorus of the Opéra de Lausanne (strangely uncredited on the disc cover but listed elsewhere) is joy itself, as is the orchestra, with its delicious drones and light staccatos (some lovely woodwind solos on the second outing of the chorus). Teol0inda’s impassioned response is beautifully visceral here, as is the tenderness of Meyerbeer’s sudden reduction of the scoring to solo strings.

The music itself is joyous and superbly crafted. One must not forget Meyerbeer’s ability to work with form, especially on a large scale (one thinks of the brilliant Robert le Diable; see here for my review of the Covent Garden production), and this perfectly balanced little gem offers yet another insight into this mastery. Meyerbeer’s way with the finale, which marries solo soprano, clarinet and chorus, is the work of a true craftsman. The soprano and clarinet are joined in duet with a terrific crowning high note from Ruiten.

Curiously, although booklet notes on the pieces are given in French and English, the text itself is given in the original Italian and only translated into French, a potential hurdle for English-only speakers.

Julia Varady’s reputation precedes, her and she is indeed magnificent in her recording (you can hear her Diceva un giorno on Youtube). Yet, there is a lightness to the Claves recording that is most appealing. The performance by Nelly Miricioiu and Emma Johnson needs to be heard, too, particularly for the freshness of Johnson’s contribution.

Low playing time for this Claves release, to be sure, but this remains an uplifting performance.

Colin Clarke

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