Gaspare Spontini: Olimpie
Karina Gauvin (Olimpie), Kate Aldrich (Statira), Mathias Vidal (Cassandre), Josef Wagner (Antigone), Patrick Bolleire (L’Hiérophante, Un Prêtre), Philippe Souvagie (Hermas), Flemish Radio Choir, Hervé Niquet (préparation du chœur), Le Cercle de l’Harmonie, Jérémie Rhorer (direction)
Recording: La Philharmonie de Paris, France (May 21 and June 1-2, 2016) – 134’32
Bru Zane 1035 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Book in French and English
Though Italian by birth, Gaspare Spontini soon moved out of his native Ancona Province in pursuit of a more lucrative career inside France with the aid of the Empress Josephine, beginning with his La Vestale. “Boldness” could characterize Spontini’s vibe within Olimpie, especially since his music moved more into the rooms of Giacomo Meyerbeer and Hector Berlioz; hence, more of a skein of grand-opéra. The 1819 premiere at the Opéra, however, was categorized as a tragédie lyrique with thematic material pointing back to Voltaire. But Olimpie was subject to several variations, and in this release, we hear a Spontini of 1826 spotlighted in Berlin with a massaged libretto by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Bru Zane’s intention was to meld the two curations and present a comprehensive articulation.
Olimpie is clamorous and bombastic. Weighty. Because of the festive atmosphere, the opera requires six unintimidated voices that can even reach beyond the folds of the Flemish Radio Choir, and inside this Olimpie everything is accomplished with immaculate fashion.
Mathias Vidal continues on his successful pathway, after delivering a stellar performance back in 2015 as the hero from Cinq-Mars and substantive energy inside Saint-Saëns’ Proserpine. In keeping with the stature as Cassandre, Mathias Vidal is unwaveringly “the tenor of the century”, a voice that keeps on consistently delivering from opera to opera...his voice turns to gold anywhere he visits.
Karina Gauvin gives majestic strength in the eponymous role, the gravitas being even more deeply grounded when she's matched up with the richly smoky mezzo voice of Maine-native, Kate Aldrich as Statira. Josef Wagner adds dramatic friction to his Antigone as he wrestles with his opponent, Cassandre, throughout Olimpie. Actively resilient and forever brocaded in authoritative warmth can well connect the baritone edge of Patrick Bolleire’s L’Hiérophante.
In several previous Bru Zane/Ediciones Singulares issues Hervé Niquet has assumed the baton, but in this instance his responsibilities move to the Flemish Radio Choir’s chorus master: a propitious move since the enormity of Spontini’s overall score rests within the hands of these monumental sections. What’s jaw dropping is M. Niquet’s finesse in patiently building crescendos to an ultimate climax while being firmly balanced and managed underneath by investments of Jérémie Rhorer and his Le Cercle de l’Harmonie.
Even though Act II has some of the best musical momentum, it’s Act III which takes the stage in terms of musical directness, regality and supremacy. The duet between Mlle Gauvin and M. Vidal ("Voilà donc ton amour, et la foi qui nous lie”) just goes to show how much in the vein of Romantic opera (and grand-opéra, for that matter) Olimpie can be. But it’s the “Serment général”, the équation triomphante, which facilitates in winding down the opera into its final coronation celebration (re: Aïda’s “Triumphal March”.) Indeed, the spectacle must have been a cause for immense jubilee back in the 1821 Berlin production when Cassandre entered the stage on an elephant.
Heavy but heavenly at the same time.
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