Notes and Editorial Reviews
This performance is ravishing. In addition to the spectacular Sutherland, the under-recorded Aragall uses his attractive voice to great effect, Quilico is a proper menace as the exorcising Bishop, and Richard Bonynge leads a luxuriant performance.
This overweight bon-bon from 1889 is one of Massenet's most exotic and lush works, one filled with musical motifs that bring Wagner to mind. It was composed for the California-born soprano Sybil Sanderson, a large, stunning woman with whom Massenet was obsessed; her vocal agility, huge tone, and startling range (up to a G above high-C) are thoroughly exploited in the score, and it is no wonder that the opera is rarely performed. But along came Joan Sutherland, with all of the
vocal characteristics (save the G--here she sings a lower E-flat option, and the high-Cs and Ds are frequent and gigantic), and the opera was revived and recorded in 1974.
As it turns out, the opera is gorgeous if you can tolerate such an unending parade of orchestral colors; imagine a very expensive paint store exploding in front of you. The plot is all sorcery, enchanted isles, knights, and a quite dazzling exorcism, and if your belief can be suspended that much and you allow yourself to bask in it, this is one of opera's greatest guilty pleasures. And the duets are as stunning as anything in Manon or Werther.
This performance is ravishing. In addition to the spectacular Sutherland, the under-recorded Catalan tenor Giacomo Aragall uses his attractive voice to great effect, baritone Louis Quilico is a proper menace as the exorcising Bishop, and Clifford Grant intones importantly as Esclarmonde's father. Huguette Tourangeau's weird mezzo is on display as Esclarmonde's sister. Richard Bonynge leads a luxuriant performance.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
reviewing a previous reissue of this recording, Decca 4757914
Works on This Recording
Esclarmonde by Jules Massenet
Robert Lloyd (Bass),
Graham Clark (Tenor),
Dame Joan Sutherland (Soprano),
Huguette Tourangeau (Mezzo Soprano),
Clifford Grant (Bass),
Giacomo Aragall (Tenor),
Louis Quilico (Baritone),
Ryland Davies (Tenor),
Ian Caley (Tenor)
John Alldis Choir,
National Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1889; France
Date of Recording: 1975
Length: 155 Minutes 52 Secs.
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