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Ne me refuse pas; Handel: Streams of Pleasure / Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Handel / Massenet / Cherubini / Halevy / Lemieux
Release Date: 02/25/2014 
Label:  Naive   Catalog #: 40039   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Jules MassenetLuigi CherubiniJacques HalévyHector Berlioz,   ... 
Performer:  Marie-Nicole LemieuxKarina Gauvin
Conductor:  Fabien GabelAlan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National OrchestraIl Complesso Barocco
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

A fine disc notable not only for some very fine singing but also for an intelligent and well put together programme.

Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux has recorded two Vivaldi operas for Naïve along with a recital of French songs. Now she steps forward with a recital of French 19 th century operatic arias. This mixes the well known with the lesser known. The result provides an interesting overview of the contralto voice in French opera. It should however be borne in mind that the low contralto does not feature strongly in 19 th century French opera, instead there were low soprano parts; Neris's aria from Cherubini's Médée is one such. The dramatic contralto
Read more became popular as a result of Italian influence. So that though Halévy's La Juive includes a pair of contrasting soprano parts, his opera Charles VI has a pairing of soprano with contralto. The interesting thing is that in the later 19 th century, there seems to have been a return to the earlier type of mid-range, low soprano role which could be sung by either soprano or mezzo: Carmen, Charlotte ( Werther) and Didon ( Les Troyens) are such.

So Lemieux's recital presents a fascinating overview of these developments. It helps give a different slant on what might otherwise court the danger of being a routine traversal through standard repertoire. Not that there was much danger of this artist's recital being routine. She has an interesting voice - rich, melodious with a nice even production. A significant vibrato is offset by a strong core to her voice and she sings with a lovely sense of line.

Herodiade's aria from Massenet's Herodiade is no showpiece, but forms a nicely dramatic opening with support from Francois Lisse. Neris's aria from Médée is far more striking, with its long solo bassoon. Lemieux's mixed background, with her experience in baroque music, means that she shapes this scena in stunning fashion.

Odette's aria from Halévy's Charles VI is far more of a curiosity; we are lucky to encounter La Juive and Charles VI is a real rarity. This is followed by something more well-known, an aria from Berlioz's Roméo et Juliette, again beautifully sung and without a hint of the bottom-heaviness that some voices bring to this music. Lemieux is able to present dramatic virtuosity when necessary but the beauty of this performance is fine control and shading.

There then follows another rarity, an aria from André Wormser's 1875 cantata Clytemnestre , which won the Prix de Rome. It's a wonderfully dramatic piece, well put over by Lemieux. It left me wondering what the remainder of the cantata would be like.

The final five items are all more familiar territory, though Ambroise Thomas's Mignon is not as common as it used to be. Lemieux's account of Connais tu le pays? is nicely done, but she does sound a little bit mature for the role. This is also true of Charlotte, but then it must be admitted that Charlotte is a tricky role and the singer has to mature quickly throughout the opera. Lemieux's singing of the aria from Werther is so finely done that it quickly wins you over.

Her Carmen is again well sung, but she doesn't quite get under the skin of the character - her performance lacks the essential element of danger. This is also true of Didon, where Lemieux's finely modulated account of Je vais mourir isn't quite as gut-wrenching as it ought to be. Then finally, we have a very elegant account of Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix, though it seems a shame that having run to a bass for the aria from Herodiade and a chorus for two other pieces, we get the standard concert version of the aria without tenor.

But this isn't the end. Attached to the final track, like a delightful encore, is a sparkling account of an aria from Offenbach's La fille du tambour major.

As I have already suggested, Lemieux had given us some extremely beautiful singing on this disc, with fine vocal control. But for all the beauties, there are limitations. Didon and Carmen seem a little under-characterised and she does not make anything like enough of the words. I assume that Lemieux is a French-speaking Canadian, but she does not capitalise on this in her handling of the language.

The Orchestra National de France provide strong support under the baton of Fabien Gabel, and the Jeune Choeur de Paris appear in the extracts from Roméo et Juliette and Carmen .

The CD booklet includes texts and translations plus a fascinating article about 19 th century developments in the operatic contralto voice. Unfortunately it gives scant information about the music performed, with no information about André Wormser.

This is a fine disc notable not only for some very fine singing from Marie-Nicole Lemieux, but also for an intelligent and well put together programme.

-- Robert Hugill, MusicWeb International
reviewing the original release of Ne me refuse pas, Naive 5201



HANDEL Arias and Duets Karina Gauvin (sop); Marie-Nicole Lemieux (alt); Alan Curtis, cond; Il Complesso Barocco (period instruments) NAÏVE V 5261 (75:00 Text and Translation)


Selections from Alexander Balus. Belshazzar. Hercules. Joseph and His Brethren. Joshua. Judas Maccabaeus. Solomon. Susanna. Theodora


This disc, titled Streams of Pleasure after the duet from Theodora , presents arias and duets from Handel’s oratorios premiered between 1744 and 1750; of the later oratorios, only Jephtha is not represented. Although some of these works (at least in their entirety) do not represent Handel at his best, even those from Handel’s second tier contain great and beautiful music.


The selections are fairly evenly divided; Karina Gauvin sings five arias, Marie-Nicole Lemieux has four, and they combine for six duets. Although we find some of selections we would expect to see from these works, the compilers of this program (presumably Curtis and his singers together) have bypassed some expected selections for less-well-known alternatives, such as “Our Limpid Streams” from Joshua instead of the expected “Oh, Had I Jubal’s Lyre.” “Prophetic Raptures” from Joseph and His Brethren is given in its first version; it was later shortened by ten bars.


In a recent review of Handel’s Ariodante , I praised Lemieux’s singing of the villain Polinesso. I enjoy her work here as well. She sometimes gives her voice a hooded, darker sound which seems especially appropriate to the (mostly) male characters she sings. She is, however, capable of lightening her tone as well, which she effectively does for the one female character she sings, Irene from Theodora . She is technically secure and has a decent trill, although she is not quite as smooth in florid music as Gauvin.


I have been an admirer of Gauvin since I first encountered her on recordings, and she continues to impress. The voice is beautiful, the technique assured and spotless. She does a credible job of portraying the characters whose music she sings, which must be difficult in such a program with the music taken out of context. Gauvin and Lemieux are splendid in their duets, with their voices producing a lovely, blended sound.


Curtis is of course very familiar from his peerless series of Handel operas. As one might expect, his conducting of these oratorio excerpts is equally adept. Curtis sets reasonable tempos, is supportive of his singers, and is respectful of Handel’s score. Da capo ornaments are tasteful and idiomatic. Il Complesso Barocco is up to its usual high standards.


In sum, what we have here is Streams of Pleasure indeed. Highly recommended.


FANFARE: Ron Salemi
reviewing the original release of Streams of Pleasure, Naive 5261 Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Hérodiade: Herod! Ne me refuse pas by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1881; France 
2.
Médée: Act 2. Scene 4. Air. Ah! Nos peines seront communes by Luigi Cherubini
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1797; France 
3.
Charles VI: Sous leur sceptre...Humble fille des champs by Jacques Halévy
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
4.
Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17: Heureux enfants by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1839; France 
5.
Clytemnestre: Qu’Apollon soit loué…Ombre d'Agamemnon by Andre Wormser
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
6.
Mignon: Connais-tu le pays? by Ambroise Thomas
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1866; France 
7.
Werther: Werther! Qui m'aurait dit...Des cris joyeux "Letter scene" by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; France 
8.
Carmen: L'amour est un oiseau rebelle "Habañera" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Written: 1873-1874 
9.
Les troyens: Je vais mourir by Hector Berlioz
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856-1858; France 
10.
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Fabien Gabel
Orchestra/Ensemble:  French National Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
11.
Belshazzar, HWV 61: Destructive war, thy limits know by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1745; London, England 
12.
Theodora, HWV 68: To thee, thou glorious son of worth by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749-1750; London, England 
13.
Alexander Balus, HWV 65: Fury, with red sparkling eyes by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1748; England 
14.
Susanna, HWV 66: Crystal streams in murmurs flowing by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749; London, England 
15.
Theodora, HWV 68: As with rosy steps the Morn advancing by George Frideric Handel
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749-1750; London, England 
16.
Joseph and his Brethren, HWV 59: Prophetic raptures swell my breast by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
17.
Judas Maccabaeus, HWV 63: From this dread scene by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
18.
Joshua, HWV 64: Our limpid streams with freedom flow by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1748; London, England 
19.
Solomon, HWV 67: Can I see my infant gor'd by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
20.
Theodora, HWV 68: Streams of pleasure ever flowing by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749-1750; London, England 
21.
Alexander Balus, HWV 65: Fair virtue shall charm me by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
22.
Solomon, HWV 67: Welcome as the dawn of day by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
23.
Hercules, HWV 60: My father! Ah, methinks I see by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
24.
Theodora, HWV 68: Oh! that I on wings could rise by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749-1750; London, England 
25.
Belshazzar, HWV 61: Great victor, at your feet I bow by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Karina Gauvin (Soprano), Marie-Nicole Lemieux (Alto)
Conductor:  Alan Curtis
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Il Complesso Barocco
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1745; London, England 

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