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Notes and Editorial Reviews
The elegant score is matched by elegant orchestral playing and the singing of Huguette Tourangeau, who deploys a voice rich in timbre and expression.
Operas looking at the French Revolution are not unfamiliar. In all known to me, the guillotine claims a self-sacrificing victim. Italian verismo produced Giordano's Andrea Chénier and, nearer home, Benjamin's A Tale of Two Cities saw the Terror through the eyes of Charles Dickens. Then, nearer in date, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites presented the Revolution as a background to the moral disquisitions of Bernanos, an intensely moving musical drama, but on a lofty, and completely sexless plane throughout. And while Poulenc himself was a Parisian, the essentially
religious inspiration of the Dialogues rules it out of the general run. There is better reason to regard Therèse, the work of another Parisian, as the most typically French expression of a domestic drama which unfolds against the backcloth of those tragic times.
Massenet's two-act opera, completed in 1906, is the tale of the tempted but eventually loyal wife of a Revolutionary politician and his friend, a Marquis who returns to the house now occupied by the married couple. The husband, after giving his friend a safe conduct, is himself arrested. His wife, instead of following the friend, her former sweetheart, joins her husband on the scaffold.
Only in an off-stage minuet in which the Marquis de Clerval is accompanied by a harpsichord and pianissimo strings and in snatches of an old song is the anciem régime evoked musically. And hints of the Marseillaise stand for the Revolution. Even if the rest is Massenet of the truest type, there is a powerful authenticity about the piece. This may well stem from impressions Massenet received at Parisian sites a stone's-throw from his own home in the long rue de Vaugirard. They are described in Richard Bonynge's admirable introduction to the recording he so capably conducts. In the title-role, Huguette Tourangeau deploys a voice rich in timbre and expression, probably better than that of Lucy Arbell with whom Massenet was involved when he wrote the opera and in defence of whom the usually urbane Jules once lost his temper when together, they came face to face with a critic who had described her as "a pallid contralto". There is splendid singing from all the males. Quilico is not alone in an idiomatic ardour of expression and urgency. So this is an issue for voice-fanciers, opera buffs, and lovers of romantic opera. On first acquaintance, I have fallen in love with its elegant score, matched here by elegant orchestral playing and a marvellously vivid quality of recorded sound.
-- Gramophone [8/1974, reviewing the original LP release]
Works on This Recording
Thérèse by Jules Massenet
Louis Quilico (Baritone),
Huguette Tourangeau (Mezzo Soprano),
Ryland Davies (Tenor),
Alan Opie (Baritone),
Neilson Taylor (Tenor)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Written: 1907; France
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Exciting and moving opera, beautiful performance August 28, 2016
By M. Parker (Washington, DC) See All My Reviews
"At the time this recording first appeared, it restored to notice an opera almost forgotten and I remember reading some rather lukewarm reviews. I find the work itself exciting and riveting from the very first note. Dramatic highly-charged passages contrast with ardently lyrical romantic moments. Really Massenet at his best and a mystery as to why it had remained unperformed for so long. Over the years, Maestro Bonynge has done all opera lovers great service by unearthing so many great forgotten works. Truly this is one of them. The performance is superb. Both men, Davies and Quilico, are excellent singers and bring their roles to life, but for me Tourangeau is the standout. Idiomatic French and a voluptuous voice create an unforgettable impression. At the helm, Bonynge leads with strength and assurance plus a large dose of ardent romantic lyricism. All in all, a rare treat and highly recommended."
A Massenet Gem. September 9, 2014
By JOSEPH ERDELJAC (WEST CHESTER, PA) See All My Reviews
"Therese is a long forgotten gem from this composer. It may be short but packs all the emotion of his longer operas. It is well sung by the entire cast and superbly led by Richard Bonynge. Thanks to him many of the forgotten operas of Massenet have been reawakened to delight opera lovers all over the world."
Very fast turnaround April 4, 2012
By Noah M. (Los Angeles, CA) See All My Reviews
"Had occasion to communicate with ArkivMusic, and the response was quick, helpful, friendly. Their facsimile of the original Decca product is first-rate."