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Gounod: Faust / Prêtre, Domingo, Freni, Ghiaurov, Paris

Release Date: 10/25/1990 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 47493   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Charles Gounod
Performer:  Placido DomingoNicolai GhiaurovMirella FreniMichèle Command,   ... 
Conductor:  Georges Prêtre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opera ChorusParis Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The CD format for opera on records coincides with (and perhaps encourages) the modern habit in the opera house of running two or more acts together without an interval. Some operas benefit from this, but I don't think Faust is one of them. It strikes a genial bargain. ''I won't waste your time,'' it promises, ''but don't bother to come along if you haven't got a full evening-out to spare.''

It keeps its side of the agreement to the extent of providing one good tune after another with a minimum of 'bits in between'. But it doesn't like hurry, either musical or dramatic; and the intervals are built into its form. I chafed slightly throughout the CDs (a matinee performance), and expanded contentedly with the last two records of
Read more the LP set at night. For one thing, it was a pleasure to be handling the generously illustrated, Paris-Opera size booklet, rather than its midget CD offspring. It's true that the LPs had mysteriously developed ticks since the last time they were put away, and that these were most persistent in the ppp prayer for Valentin's soul, which is a particularly sublime moment rendered tickless on CD. But there was a pleasure in observing the intervals and not being hustled along.

For the performance, there is much, though not quite everything, to be said. The soloists were among the day's best at the time of recording; the orchestra and chorus know their business; the direction is firm but sympathetic. Freni and Ghiaurov would both have been better a few years earlier: Ghiaurov because his voice had by 1979 acquired a surface-layer of extraneous sound which modern recording makes it impossible to ignore, and Freni because her crystalline lyric soprano voice, having been pressed into a service with the heavy brigade, had loosened somewhat. Domingo, if not a particularly stylish or intense Faust, is gentlemanly of manner and lustrous of tone. Totally admirable is the Valentin of Thomas Allen, his voice in best condition, his projection of character strong and likeable.

Bonuses include the scene for Marguerite and Siebel at the start of Act 4, the Walpurgis scene and the Ballet. I rather wish the Ballent music had been put in context instead of being consigned to an Appendix at the end. Full of broad, unabashed melodies, it is very much part of the body of the opera. Marguerite's solo (a poor relation of ''Meine Ruh' ist hin'') never quite fulfils its opening promise; and the Walpurgis expedition offers as its principal treat the tremulous voices of assorted 'queens and courtesans' in what sounds very like the homely refrain of a favourite air by Sir Henry Bishop. Still, it's all in the generously inclusive spirit of the thing, as is Faust's jolly evocation of Offenbach in the underworld. Neither the opera nor the recording is for the wiltingly refined sensibility; otherwise, so long as one is the CD's master, making arrangements for proper intervals, there is much to enjoy.'

-- Gramophone [4/1987]
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Works on This Recording

Faust by Charles Gounod
Performer:  Placido Domingo (Tenor), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Bass), Mirella Freni (Soprano),
Michèle Command (Soprano), Jocelyne Taillon (Mezzo Soprano), Thomas Allen (Baritone),
Marc Vento (Baritone)
Conductor:  Georges Prêtre
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Opera Chorus,  Paris Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
Date of Recording: 1978 
Length: 189 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Language: French 

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