MEYERBEER Les Huguenots (Abridged) • Ernst Märzendorfer, cond; Rita Shane (Marguerite); Nicolai Gedda (Raoul); Dimiter Petkov (St.-Bris); Enriquetta Tarres (Valentine); Pedro Farres (Count Nevers); Jeanette Scovotti (UrbainRead more class="ARIAL12">); Harald Neukirch (Tavannes); Justino Diaz (Marcel); Austrian RO & Ch • OPERA D’ORO 1464 (2 CDs: 129:38) Live: Vienna 1972
Poor Meyerbeer. Ever since the True Wagnerites among music professors and critics got hold of him in the 1880s, his reputation has steadily declined. Since they couldn’t actually criticize the high quality of his music, they took a different tack, claiming that his operas, “the process of long meditations,” completely lacked “any real inspiration.” In other words, all of those magnificent choruses, vocal ensembles, arias, and end-of-act finales were “contrived” and therefore third-rate. None of which makes any sense when you consider that Wagner took 25 years to write the Ring Cycle and Berlioz spent almost three years on Les Troyens. What was that, bolt-of-lightning inspiration? Nonsense.
And of course, Meyerbeer the man had to be maligned as much as Meyerbeer the musician, despite the fact that he sent a letter of recommendation for the young Wagner that was lost in the mail (not his fault), or that he was spotted at performances of Les Troyens, telling the curious, “I’m here to get an education.” Meyerbeer may indeed have been somewhat over-ingratiating to the Paris public, but no more so than Rossini, who practically mapped out a marketing campaign to win the French over, and Rossini suffered no ill repute after his death, not even from Wagner, who admired him.
All of which is a preface to this performance. Les Huguenots had been revived, in Italian, French, and German, a few times prior to this in the 20th century, the most famous being a rather messy 1961 La Scala performance with Sutherland and Corelli. A few years later, Sutherland made her studio recording of the opera—note-for-note complete—which unfortunately lacked excitement. Then came this concert revival of an abridged Huguenots, in French, in Vienna. One wonders why it was abridged. Did the singers, promoters, or conductor think that no one would sit through a complete Huguenots? With this cast, they were wrong. Nor is this performance a classic only, or primarily, because of the contribution of Nicolai Gedda (Sutherland’s original choice for her recording) as Raoul. Everyone in this performance exemplifies the proper Meyerbeer style, which is to sing the rhythms as written, don’t drag out the high notes too much, and give the music a springy forward momentum that drives it into the mind and through the theater. Rita Shane couldn’t come close to Sutherland for sheer richness or size of voice, but listen to the way she rips through “O beau pays” and especially its cabaletta, “A ce mot tout s’anime.” And although I am scarcely the kind of listener who tells people, “Listen to this tenor’s high notes,” if you don’t have chills up your spine when Gedda launches that unbelievable high C in the midst of the Marguerite-Raoul duet, you’re not human. With the exception of Leon Escalaïs’s last two high notes in his legendary recording of the Robert le Diable Sicilienne finale, I can’t think of another Meyerbeerian high note that drills itself into the mind as strongly as Gedda’s.
On top of all this, Ernst Märzendorfer’s conducting is unerringly right for Meyerbeer—not something to be taken for granted. O ye of little faith, why didn’t you give it to us complete?
Les Huguenotsby Giacomo Meyerbeer Performer:
Ewald Aichberger (Tenor),
Justino Diaz (Bass),
Ladislav Illavsky (Baritone),
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor),
Unni Rugtvedt (),
Rita Shane (Soprano),
Jeanette Scovotti (Soprano),
Enriqueta Tarrés (Soprano),
Pedro Farrés (Baritone),
Dimiter Petkov (Bass),
Harald Neukirch (Tenor),
Kurt Equiluz (Tenor),
Jaroslav Stanic (),
Manfred Schenk (Bass)
Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Austrian Radio Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: 1836; France Date of Recording: 02/17/1971 Venue: Live Vienna, Austria Language: French
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Get it for Gedda, stay for the rest!February 3, 2014By J S E T. (West Grove, PA)See All My Reviews"An hour and 30 minutes shorter than the Radio France performance on Erato w/ Richard Leech and Cyril Diederich, and an hour and 15 minutes shorter than the Sutherland Bonynge on Decca/London, what this performance seems ot be missing is the ballet, entr'acts, a few repeats and some recitative. As this cast chorus and orchestra under Ernst Marzendorfer could have put it all across with interest, it is a shame the performance is cut. However, once listening to it, it plays superbly. The sound is full, the performance exciting, Gedda et al are magnificent. I won't be parting with the other two, but if I could only have one, this might be the one."Report Abuse
Astounding collection of voicesFebruary 1, 2014By John Hutchinson (Oakland, CA)See All My Reviews"It's not every day one hears this elaborate piece of work. Madame Butterfly it ain't but when you hear those voices soar, when the full throated chorus weaves through the momentous events in perfect simultaneity with the principals, and when the tireless orchestra pounds through the uproar of the final act, you'll be able to say: Bro', I just heard me an Opera!"Report Abuse
Bel Canto fanJune 9, 2012By Perry S. (New Plymouth, -)See All My Reviews"Opera d'oro can publish some rubbish, but this one is NOT. For a 1971 recording it is amazingly good and worth Arkiv's recommendation. The score has been cut but all the important music seems to be here. For me, Nicolai Gedda leads a very good cast. I am a fan of a lot of today's singers, but this proves that we should still be buying some of the older timers. Highly recommended, and at the price, too good to be missed."Report Abuse
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