This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mireille was composed four years after Faust, and three years before Romeo et Juliette. The middle of Gounod's trio of enduring successes, it has always been a problem piece and something of a poor relation of the others. The most famous number, the waltz-song "O légères hirondelles", beloved of Lily Pons and many other coloratura sopranos, was written to order for the primadonna of the Théâtre Lyrique a year after the première. It is included as a bonus at the end of these discs, which are a souvenir of what sounds to have been one of the most magical productions ever put on under the auspices of the Aix Festival. Staged in the ancient walled city of Les Baux, in a production by Jean-Pierre
Grenier, designed by Wakhevich, it was a one-off; in an essay in the booklet (which includes the libretto in French, but no translation) Gabriel Dussurget recalls "On the evening of the performance there was an immense traffic jam, but everything turned Out all right in the end".
The version used is that prepared in the 1930s by Gounod's pupil, Henri Busser, and Reynaldo Hahn, who conducted it at the Opéra Comique. This restored the opera to its original tragic five acts (the 'waltz-song' revision had been performed in various two- and three-act editions, with a happy ending). Although the mono sound is fairly restricted by modern standards, the performance could hardly be better. In the title-role, Janette Vivalda has one of those typical French voices, the effect of which can be like drinking undiluted citron-pressé without sugar, but she is completely inside the part, her direction is cystal-clear, and she rises to the delirious scene in the Crau desert with surprising conviction.
Gedda was at the very beginning of his recording career, his account of "Anges du Paradis" is completely without that sense of strain that so often infects these high tenor parts, and he joins Vivalda in the other famous moment, the duet "0 Magali", with honeyed charm. The star of the recording, for me, though, is Michel Dens as the bully Ourrias. His Second Act celebration of the charms of the Aries girls and the strength of the Camargue boys, is an attempt by Gounod to repeat the impact of the "Veau d'or" from Faust. In Act 3, his duet with Gedda and then the marvellous scene in which he is drawn to a watery grave by some Giselle-type phantoms, at least in this recording are the highlights of the opera. Cluytens conducts an exemplary performance; there are some orchestral effects where one rather yearns for a more spacious recording, but I doubt if this version can easily be replaced for authentic atmosphere.
Works on This Recording
Mireille by Charles Gounod
Marcello Cortis (Baritone),
Janette Vivalda (Soprano),
Madeleine Ignal (Soprano),
Christiane Jacquin (Soprano),
André Vessieres (Bass),
Robert Tropin (),
Christiane Gayraud (Mezzo Soprano),
Michel Dens (Baritone),
Nicolai Gedda (Tenor)
Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris,
Aix-en-Provence Festival Chorus
Written: 1864; France
Date of Recording: 1954
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