“Opéra français” – Volume 11:
Charles Gounod: Cinq-Mars
Mathias Vidal (The Marquis Cinq-Mars), Véronique Gens (Princess Marie de Gonzague), Tassis Christoyannis (Counsellor de Thou), Andrew Foster-Williams (Father Joseph), André Heyboer (Count Fontrailles), Norma Nahoun (Marion Delorme), Marie Lenormand (Ninon de L’Enclos, Shepherdess), Jacques-Greg Belobo (King Louis XIII, Chancellor), Andrew Lepri Meyer (De Montmort, Ambassador), Matthias Ettmayr (De Montrésor, Eustache), Wolfgang Klose (De Brienne), Bavarian Radio Chorus, Stellario Fagone (Chorus Master), Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ulf Schirmer (Conductor)
Live recording: Prinzregententheater, Munich, Germany (January 25, 2015) – 138’17
2 CDs Ediciones Singulares # ES1024 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Book in French and English
Though Charles Gounod’s operatic successes were cemented early on in his career, the continuation of these fortunes wasn’t overtly impressive. Since being the recipient of the Prix de Rome at age 20, it was clear that Gounod’s heart was better aligned to composition of sacred music than to opera. With many of his operas receiving tepid reviews, Cinq-Mars is no exception. Stylistically, Gounod’s music never moved out of his own comfort zone, and in this 1877 opéra comique we’re still delightfully stimulated by the same palatable, dulcet passages as we had back in the days of Faust (1859) and Roméo et Juliette (1867) despite the music being somewhat formulaic. Not to fear as Ulf Schirmer renders an exceptionally finessed musical canvas filled with unparalleled talent.
Cinq-Mars is quite faithful to Alfred de Vigny’s historical detail surrounding the misfortunes and imminent doom of this Marquis in 1642. Mathias Vidal’s interpretation of the title role unequivocally convinces the listener of realistic dramatic heft. This velveteen voice is exceedingly meticulous and fervent while being soaked with the most amazing French trill énonciation. But his closing arguments ahead of being led to the scaffolds in the cavatine, “À vous, ma mère”, is ravishing. In the role of Marie, Véronique Gens’ delivery never stops impressing with her richly deep hues which adds maturity and sophistication to the character. Andrew Foster-Williams brings new meaning to the Church’s excesses through his nefarious overtones as Father Joseph. Tassis Christoyannis also delivers masculine might by way of his bass-baritone register and gives the opera some satisfying grounding in his portrayal of De Thou.
A certain degree of lightness prevails inside Act II with nicely appropriate coquettish remarks by Marian Delorme, here sung by Norma Nahoun. The only vestige of coloratura Gounod whips into Cinq-Mars is during the divertissement (ref: Mignon’s Philine) which is lined with Nahoun’s delectable softness though the higher notes are a bit chirpy. Her air, “Bergers qui le voulez connaître”, is uncannily similar in structure and melody to that found in Mireille (1864.) This music floats in typical Gounod fashion. Supported by her fellow courtesan, Ninon de L’Enclos, Marie Lenormand adds a pleasingly smoky narrative tincture to the fête at Marion’s house (ref: Thomas’ La Cour de Célimène.)
Ulf Schirmer leads the Munich Radio Symphony Orchestra with grand balance and pleasant pacing. And even though Cinq-Mars doesn’t grab one by the throat with standout selections (with exception of Marie’s “Nuit resplendissant”), this opéra comique is charming and irresistibly French. Strongly recommended.
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Ediciones Singulares’ Les Barbares
Ediciones Singulares’ ”Portraits” Volume 2: Works by Théodore Dubois
Ediciones Singulares’ Herculanum
Ediciones Singulares’ ”Prix de Rome Volume 5: Works by Paul Dukas
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