Notes and Editorial Reviews
José Collado, cond; Montserrat Caballé (sop); Montserrat Martí (sop); Chiara Angella (sop); Alessandra Zapparoli (mez); Ruben Martinez (ten); Kim Young-Joo (bar); Easter Festival O & Ch
KULTUR 4364 (DVD: 93:00
Text and Translation) Live: Rome, date uncertain
Very little information comes with this disc—no notes whatsoever, and no indication of the date of the performance except for a 2002 copyright at the end of the credits. This is a
live performance from the Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, and if this was recorded in 2002 Caballé deserves even more praise for the strength of her performance and quality of her singing after more than 40 years of a career.
This oratorio is pure Massenet, sometimes dramatic, frequently perfumed, but with plenty of good tunes and effective vocal, choral, and orchestral writing. If you enjoy Massenet, this is definitely worth obtaining. The major role is that of the Virgin Mary, taken by Caballé—and except for a slight tremolo that I quickly got used to, all of her vocal assets are present. The voice still sounds beautiful, she floats some lovely pianos, she has a sense of the grand phrase, and she clearly believes deeply in this music. For Caballé fans as well as Massenet lovers, this DVD is a must.
Her daughter Montserrat Martí is an adequate partner (with a much smaller part), and the other soloists are all more than adequate, while never outstanding. They all seem really into the score and perform with solid vocalism and intensity. The choral and orchestral forces are more than up to the music, and conductor Collado brings the right combination of lyrical sensitivity and dramatic impulse. The score does have its moments of dragging, but he does the best he can to keep it moving.
If there is a problem, it is the camera direction of Enrico Castiglione. The Church at which this was filmed is one of the architectural miracles of the world—designed by Michelangelo! I can understand Castiglione’s fascination with its beauty, and if he only lingered on some of it we would be satisfied. After all, this oratorio is not staged, the performers are in concert format. But the director would appear to have attention deficit disorder—the camera is moving all the time, now on Caballé, now on a harpist, now on the basilica and its art, but only for a few seconds before it goes to something else. I found myself distracted and ultimately actually angry. But you can look away and just listen, and perhaps you will find it less troublesome than I did. I would not let it stand in the way of obtaining this lovely piece in a splendid performance.
The recorded sound is rich and naturally balanced, and even in this bare-bones production this can be very highly recommended. I only know of the existence of one other recording of the work, a hard-to-find CD on the Erol label, which I have not heard.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Works on This Recording
La Vierge by Jules Massenet
Young-Joo Kim (Baritone),
Montserrat Martí (Soprano),
Montserrat Caballé (Soprano),
Chiara Angella (Soprano),
Alessandra Zapparoli (Soprano),
Ruben Martinez (Tenor)
Pasqua Festival Symphony Orchestra
Written: 1880; France
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