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Works on This Recording
Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor),
Enriqueta Tarrés (Mezzo Soprano),
Jeanette Scovotti (Soprano),
Dimiter Petkov (Bass),
Rita Shane (Soprano),
Justino Diaz (Bass)
Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra,
Austrian Radio Chorus
Written: 1836; France
Date of Recording: 02/17/1971
Venue: Live Vienna, Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Meyerbeer! Who knew? June 23, 2012
By David Landau (San Francisco, CA) See All My Reviews
"This is a live performance from Vienna in 1971, a slightly-cut version of the massive Wagner-length piece. In Vienna, everybody sings the original French, and sings it very well. (The opera, after a very long absence from the stage, had earlier been revived in Italian as as "Gli Ugonotti".)
Meyerbeer, a German Jew who migrated to Italy and then to Paris, is an exact contemporary of Rossini and first gained fame in Italy by writing historical dramas in a Rossinian vein for the Italian stage. "The Huguenots" was his second piece for Paris, after "Robert le Diable". He had the best of librettists, of singers and of productions, and "Les Huguenots" took the place by storm. It enjoyed a huge international reputation and was admired by, among others, Berlioz, Verdi, Bizet, even Mussorgsky. It ran into trouble, however, with the Germans, notably Schumann and Wagner, who eventually destroyed the work's reputation. Indeed, Wagner's essays against Meyerbeer formed the core of his anti-Semitic writings.
My conclusion? It's a smashing good piece. It has one terrific tune after another, the vocal distribution is perfectly thought-out, the vocal effects are tremendously exciting, the drama consistent. By the way, it does not hurt that this performance in Vienna comes at the tail-end of the golden age, with all the production-values we know and with an audience that's come prepared to love the spectacle. The recorded sound, as given in this edition, is excellent; full stereo, practically as good as a studio recording.
Why this opera has disappeared from circulation is kind of a wonder. But then the same is true of other pieces we consider high-points of grand opera, namely "William Tell" and "Don Carlos". Only in the company of those two would "The Huguenots" have to be considered "a cut below". If there were a good production of "The Huguenots" in Paris or even in Malaysia--which is actually a pretty good place for music these days--and if I had a bit of extra money, I'd run across the world to see it.
Recommended with every possible enthusiasm. "