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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Taken from live performances in London in December, 2000 (but with nary a sound from the audience), you might think that since Colin Davis previously led an almost ideal recording of the work (released in 1969) this might be superfluous. But it is far from it: As wonderful, ear-opening, awe-inspiring, and history-making as that one was--and I certainly wouldn't want to do without it--this version is just as valuable and the casting in some roles is ever finer than before. And as far as the leadership is concerned, while I found nothing wrong with the Philips recording, Davis seems even better here; scenes lead seamlessly into one another, the score's disparate elements (especially the alternation of light and dark, heavy and lean, languid
and manic) blend easily and naturally, and the sense of the opera being somewhat of a behemoth that needs taming (which you vaguely feel in the '69 recording) is nowhere in evidence. The LSO and Chorus have the music so firmly under their belts by now that the opera sounds like a great repertoire piece like Falstaff or Tristan--familiar but brilliant.
As Cassandra, Petra Lang is the cast's great find. From Lang's very first utterance--"Les Grecs ont disparu!", spit out with venom--her obsessive nature, passion, and visionary position is clear, and she never lets up. Her duet with Corebus in the person of the spectacular Peter Mattei (who, like Lang, sings rings around his counterpart in the earlier recording) is magnificent, her suicide as startling as it should be. Berit Lindholm, the previous Cassandra, simply isn't in the same league. Comparing Ben Heppner's Aeneas with Jon Vickers would be a worthless task. Heppner's bright tone, vocal security, elegance, and intelligence of phrasing and complete involvement are in a class by themselves--you hear him and think of no other singer in the role.
I was never as enamored of Josephine Veasey's Dido in the earlier set as was the entire population of England, but Michelle DeYoung's Dido here is problematic too: She sounds uneasy and her tone is wrong in Act 3 (although her duet with the lush Sara Mingardo as Anna is model), but she improves from there and is marvelous in her denunciation of Aeneas and in her final scene. Still, the voice is not quite the right color for the part. The two young tenors--Kenneth Tarver and Toby Spence as Iopas and Hylas, respectively--sing so beautifully that it's a pity they haven't more to do. The remainder of the cast is excellent and the sound is natural, clear, and clean. It's not whether you should own this one or the Philips (and I'm avoiding Dutoit's uneventful set on purpose); you should own both. And this one is half the price of the other.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
This selection won the 2001 Grammy Awards for "Best Classical Album" and "Best Opera Recording."
Works on This Recording
Les troyens by Hector Berlioz
Ben Heppner (Tenor),
Michelle DeYoung (Mezzo Soprano),
Petra Lang (Mezzo Soprano),
Sara Mingardo (Alto),
Peter Mattei (Baritone),
Stephen Milling (Bass),
Kenneth Tarver (Tenor),
Toby Spence (Tenor),
Orlin Anastassov (Bass),
Tigran Martirossian (Bass),
Isabelle Cals (Mezzo Soprano),
Alan Ewing (Bass),
Guang Yang (Mezzo Soprano),
Andrew Greenan (Bass),
Roderick Earle (Bass),
Bülent Bezdüz (Tenor),
Leigh Melrose (Baritone),
Mark Stone (Baritone)
Sir Colin Davis
London Symphony Orchestra,
London Symphony Chorus
Written: 1856-1858; France
Date of Recording: 12/2000
Venue: Live Barbican Center, London, England
Length: 239 Minutes 36 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Fine Performance, But Overdone By Berlioz Himself? January 11, 2014
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"Sir Colin Davis' masterful direction and the magnificent sound of the London Symphony Orchestral highlight this production of Hector Berlioz's monumental 4-hour long saga of the Trojans and Carthaginians from classical mythology. Berlioz's orchestration, and its superb realization by the LSO, is at times staggeringly powerful, at other times delicate and in introspectively nuanced. The London Symphony Chorus likewise provides powerfully sung passages throughout the 5 acts. As for the singers, I personally found it hard to judge them, since there are so many individual participants. In most instances, I would characterize the singing as good to excellent, and never less than adequate to the task, although I was somehow uninspired by Ben Heppner's performance as Aeneas (see Arkivmusic's professional critic for a differing view). Berlioz was (and is) known for his compositional extravagance, and this may be the major criticism I have. Simply stated, the composer may have overdone it a bit, stretching a relatively straightforward story line into 5 acts, 2 individual (but linked) sections, and of course well over 4 hours in length. Still, this fine recording manages to hold interest throughout, and it is (in my view) well worth the effort to experience this massive opera."