Berlioz wrote of Halévy’s La Reine de Chypre (1841): ‘Its success will at least equal that of La Juive.’ And Wagner added: ‘It is in La Reine de Chypre that Halévy’s new style has appeared with the most brilliance and success.’ So several voices – and those by no means insignificant – have declared this work, written six years after La Juive, to be its composer’s masterpiece. Premiered on 22 December 1841, Halévy’s opera offered the limelight to Rosine Stoltz in the title role: she was the only woman in the cast, for it had been found preferable to isolate her, following her incessant disputes with the other female singers in the company. AlongsideRead more her, the tenor Gilbert Duprez shone in the role of Gérard. The story takes the spectator on a voyage from the palaces of Venice to those of Cyprus. But despite an initial success confirmed by several translations and adaptations that appeared shortly after the first run (notably Lachner’s Caterina Cornaro in 1841 and Donizetti’s in 1843), the work gradually vanished from European opera houses. This new recording from the Flemish Radio Choir and the Orchestre de chamber de Paris, alongside a star-studded list of soloists, allows the work to have a new life in a new century.
The Palazzetto Bru Zane has done Halévy’s reputation an enormous service by presenting this splendidly cast recording in a new edition painstakingly assembled by Volker Tosta. Gens, in superb voice, is dramatically convincing throughout, as though she were in a staged performance. Cyrille Dubois is equally magnificent as Gérard. Chorus, orchestra and Hervé Niquet’s conducting are exemplary. An absolutely thrilling recording.