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Auber: Le Domino Noir / Bonynge, Sumi Jo, Vernet, Olmeda

Release Date: 10/02/1995 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 440646   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Daniel-François Auber
Performer:  Isabelle VernetBruce FordPatrick PowerMartine Olmeda,   ... 
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber OrchestraLondon Voices
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 24 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

AUBER Le Domino noir. Gustavo III, Overture and Ballet Music. Richard Bonynge, cond; Sumi Jo ( Angèle ); Bruce Ford ( Horace ); Isabelle Vernet (Brigitte); Patrick Power ( Count Juliano ); Martine Olmeda ( Jacinthe ); English Ch O; London Voices Read more class="BULLET12b">• LONDON 440646 (2 CDs: 143:56 Text and Translation)

Nineteenth-century opera composer. Lived to be 89 years old. Continued to write music in his 80s. Praised by such disparate figures as Rossini and Wagner. On the Paris Metro, you can take the “A Train” to a subway stop named after him. Having looked at the headnote, I assume you’ve guessed that the answer probably isn’t “Verdi,” but unlike Verdi, whose style evolved as he aged, Daniel François Esprit Auber, allowing for some inevitable changes, remained, basically, the same composer throughout his long, successful career. Is that why his stage works, unlike many of Verdi’s, have become museum pieces, periodically exhumed (at least in France) for the curious, only to disappear again? Most of his many stage works were opéras-comiques , usually written in collaboration with Eugène Scribe, one of the busiest playwrights and librettists of his day. Thanks to Auber, Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, and Verdi, it is Scribe’s librettos that have survived him. Of those five composers, Auber is the least well-known nowadays but he did not lack for honors in his lifetime, including that of succeeding his teacher, Cherubini, as head of the Paris Conservatory, in 1842. He and his librettist did have their unorthodox moments: How many composers have written an opera that actually played a part in the founding of a nation? Performances of La Muette de Portici (sometimes called Masaniello , after the leading male role) sparked riots that, in turn, expanded into the revolution that resulted in the creation of Belgium. In how many operas does the leading female character not sing a note ( Muette = Mute)? He also wrote a Manon Lescaut in which Des Grieux doesn’t rate an aria. The brilliant overtures to several of his operas used to be concert-hall staples but even they seem to have faded badly. Listening to his opéras-comiques today, one can understand why their frothy brilliance doesn’t seem to hold a modern audience, and yet one can also wonder if, perhaps, an occasional revival outside of France couldn’t be, at least, a mild success.

One stage work of Auber’s that might succeed in a revival is Le Domino noir (“The Black Domino”), one of those mistaken-identity farces that Scribe could probably churn out by the dozens. In brief: Angèle, a novice nun, decides to have a last fling and attends a ball on the night before she is to take her final vows. To conceal her identity, she wears a black mask (the “black domino” of the title). Another guest, Horace de Massares, is in love with her. A friend of his, Count Juliano, sets back the clocks one hour so Horace can spend more time with the mysterious woman. By the time she realizes what time it actually is, it is too late for her to return to the convent, whose gates close at midnight. Seeking a shelter for the night, she ends up at the house of Count Juliano, who is throwing a post-ball party. Afraid of being recognized, she talks Juliano’s housekeeper into letting her assume the disguise of a maid. Everyone is deceived but Horace, who recognizes her but says nothing. After an evening of misadventures, she manages to return, undetected, to the convent the next morning. Horace eventually shows up to see her. Conveniently, a letter from the Queen arrives, freeing Angèle from her vows, and she accepts Horace’s proposal of marriage. Opera audiences have swallowed more ridiculous plots.

In editing the work for recording, Richard Bonynge has condensed the dialogue and altered some of the vocal lines, a practice that would have been taken for granted by Auber during his lifetime. An interesting novelty is his use of several recitatives composed by Tchaikovsky at the behest of Désirée Artôt, a prima donna in a traveling Italian opera company that was visiting Moscow in 1869. They can pass for Auber. If Le Domino noir is to be successfully revived, however, it will have to have a cast comparable to the one Bonynge has assembled for this recording, which was originally issued in 1994 on Decca/London and now reappears courtesy of Arkiv. Sumi Jo is an Angèle with the agility to handle fancy ornamentation and a range that reaches the stratosphere of high D. Bruce Ford handles the high tessitura of his part with little apparent strain and makes a good sound. The rest of the cast, including the likes of Jules Bastin and Jacqueline Taillon in what amount to comprimario parts, are equal to the vocal and dramatic demands of their roles. The clear, bright sound does justice to both Auber’s orchestration and his busy vocal ensembles (which contain a flavor of Rossini).

Auber and Scribe collaborated on an opera based on Scribe’s play Gustav III , which deals with the events leading to and including the assassination of Gustav III, King of Sweden. Antonio Somma used Scribe’s play as the basis for his libretto for Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera . As is the case with Auber’s Manon Lescaut , any revival of Auber’s piece will be partially driven by curiosity, given what later composers did with the subject. As a filler, Bonynge presents the opera’s overture and a series of dances performed at the masked ball during which Gustav is slain. With his facility and lively sense of rhythm, Auber was a natural for the ballet field and, in fact, Scribe even supplied the scenarios for several of Auber’s ballet scores.

FANFARE: James Miller
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Works on This Recording

Le domino noir by Daniel-François Auber
Performer:  Isabelle Vernet (Soprano), Bruce Ford (Tenor), Patrick Power (Tenor),
Martine Olmeda (Alto), Jules Bastin (Bass), Doris Lamprecht (Mezzo Soprano),
Jocelyne Taillon (Mezzo Soprano), Sumi Jo (Soprano), Gilles Cachemaille (Baritone)
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  London Voices
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837; France 
Date of Recording: 02/1993 
Venue:  Walthamstow Hall, London, England 
Length: 108 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Language: French 
Gustav III "Le bal masque": Ballet Music by Daniel-François Auber
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; France 
Date of Recording: 04/03/1995 
Venue:  Walthamstow Hall, London, England 
Gustav III "Le bal masque": Overture by Daniel-François Auber
Conductor:  Richard Bonynge
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1833; France 
Date of Recording: 04/03/1995 
Venue:  Walthamstow Hall, London, England 

Featured Sound Samples

Le domino noir: Act III: "Mes chères soeurs"
Gustave III, ou Le bal masqué: Ballet Music: March no 2

Customer Reviews

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 Auber CDs November 11, 2015 By Michael J Wilbur (East Troy, WI) See All My Reviews "All very good" Report Abuse
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