WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Thomas: Hamlet / Almeida, Hampson, Anderson, Ramey


Release Date: 04/03/2012 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 29087   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ambroise Thomas
Performer:  Denyce GravesMichel TrempontJune AndersonThomas Hampson,   ... 
Conductor:  Antonio de Almeida
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraAmbrosian Singers
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  
On sale! $42.98
CD:  $36.99
Low Stock
MP3: $19.99
What's this?




Notes and Editorial Reviews

Hampson's Hamlet is full of subtle shadings of tone and color, and the recitatives are invested with life and character -- an excellent performance that shows Thomas is not just an operatic lightweight.

Variously described as a "powerful, dark-hued masterpiece" and as, dramatically, a travesty with some musical high spots amid a sea of commonplace sentimentalities, Thomas's Hamlet seems to demand being looked at afresh. Forget Shakespeare if you can (although much of his text is employed) for, after all, he was already making his own version of an old story, and do not repine at the absence of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern or Fortinbras, nor that Polonius's part is reduced to a mere eight bars; and though the
Read more contrived happy ending, with Hamlet being proclaimed king, takes some swallowing, responsibility for this lies not with Thomas but with the French audiences of the 1860s, whose bourgeois tastes, unable to take stronger meat, had already forced his librettists Carre and Barbier (in Gounod's Faust and Thomas's Mignon) to emasculate Goethe. For the Covent Garden production of Hamlet a year after the Paris premiere, the ending was changed as a sop to British sensibilities, and Hamlet kills himself. Richard Bonynge, in his version on Decca, tries to effect a rapprochement with Shakespeare and has Hamlet fatally wounded at the very start of the duel. The present recording goes back to Thomas's original but also includes the Covent Garden ending in an appendix, to which is also banished the musically shallow and banal ballet (dramatically irrelevant) on which Parisian audiences insisted. An extra point of interest in this set is the inclusion (also in an appendix) of a duet between Claudius and Gertrude which has only recently been discovered in the Bibliotheque National and which has not previously been recorded. In any case, this recording—over three hours of it—is more complete than the Decca issue, in which there were a number of small cuts.

So, viewing the work objectively, what impression does it make? Somewhat to my surprise in view of JBS's murmurs about "triviality", I find myself inclining more to the first view quoted above of the opera. There are indeed undistinguished sections, where Thomas lapses into the conventional and pretty-pretty—and lead-ins to arias are too often like ballet-dancers' "take up position" (though the introduction to "To be or not to be" is almost Verdian)—but against this must be set the tense scene of the ghost's appearance, Hamlet's highly dramatic confrontation of Gertrude (with a further manifestation by the ghost), and such arias as Claudius's prayer for forgiveness and Hamlet's "Comme une pale fleur". Thomas's orchestration is colourful and full of felicities (and I'm not merely thinking of his employment of a saxophone), with highly effective use of the trombones, and the Intermezzo to Act 4, a clarinet solo, is singularly lovely.

This good impression owes much to the excellent performance here. Almeida secures the utmost in commitment from the LPO—the initial coronation march has tremendous impact—(though occasionally, as in Act 1, the orchestra is allowed to outbalance the singers) and the splendidly firm-voiced and tonally sensitive Ambrosian Singers; and the casting is admirable, with not a single weakness. The principals sound younger, and therefore more plausible, than in the Bonynge set. Anderson, with her seductive voice and sparkling technique, presents a more touching and vulnerable Ophelia, and manages even to make the protracted mad scene that occupies all of Act 3 something more than the mere display-piece for prima donnas and canary-fanciers it has long been considered. (Her Ballad that this contains and which is movingly taken up by the wordless chorus bears a close resemblance to the first movement of Grieg's Op. 63, and proves to have been suggested to Thomas by his Scandinavian first Ophelia, Christine Nilsson.) Hampson's Hamlet is full of subtle shadings of tone and colour, and the recitatives (his as well as the others') are invested with life and character in a way that leaves the Bonynge set standing. Ramey brings weight (if perhaps not ideal steadiness) to his portrayal of Claudius, Denyce Graves has a secure facility as Gertrude, and in the minor parts, all of which are well taken, one distinct advantage over the earlier set is the fine First Gravedigger of Thierry Felix instead of his dreadfully wobbly predecessor. The overall standard of the French is notably superior. My one criticism is that, as compared with John Tomlinson's awe-inspiring ghost, set in a hollow acoustic, Courtis here is given insufficient presence, so that his all-important narration fails to make its proper effect. In sum, however, I recommend listeners to give Thomas another chance and not just to dismiss him as an operatic lightweight.

-- Gramophone [1/1994] Review of original release
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas
Performer:  Denyce Graves (Mezzo Soprano), Michel Trempont (Tenor), June Anderson (Soprano),
Thomas Hampson (Baritone), Samuel Ramey (Bass), Gregory Kunde (Tenor),
Jean-Phillipe Courtis (Bass), Gérard Garino (Tenor), François Le Roux (Baritone),
Thierry Félix (Baritone), Jean-Pierre Furlan (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio de Almeida
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; France 
Date of Recording: 03/1993 
Venue:  St Augustine, London, England 
Length: 198 Minutes 28 Secs. 
Language: French 

Sound Samples

Hamlet : Prélude
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er tableau : Elseneur, une salle du palais - Introduction, marche et choeur : Que nos chants montent jusqu'aux cieux (Choeur)
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er Tableau : Elseneur, Une Salle Du Palais - Introduction, Marche Et Choeur : O Toi Qui Fus La Femme De Mon Frère (Le Roi, Choeur, La Reine)
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er Tableau : Elseneur, Une Salle Du Palais - Récitatif Et Duo : Vains Regrets ! Tendresse Éphémère ! (Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er Tableau : Elseneur, Une Salle Du Palais - Récitatif Et Duo : Monseigneur ! (Ophélie, Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er Tableau : Elseneur, Une Salle Du Palais - Récitatif Et Duo : Doute De La Lumière (Hamlet, Ophélie)
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er Tableau : Elseneur, Une Salle Du Palais - Récit Et Cavatine De Laërte : Salut Au Prince Hamlet !. Pour Mon Pays, En Serviteur (Laërte, Hamlet, Ophélie, Choeur)
Hamlet - Acte I - 1er tableau : Elseneur, une salle du palais - Choeur des Officiers et Pages : Nargue de la tristesse ! (Choeur, Horatio, Marcellus)
Hamlet - Acte I - 2ème Tableau : L'esplanade : Prélude
Hamlet - Acte I - 2ème Tableau : L'esplanade - Scène De L'Esplanade :Viendra-T-Il ? (Horatio, Hamlet, Marcellus)
Hamlet - Acte I - 2ème Tableau : L'esplanade - Scène De L'Esplanade : Ici L'ombre Et Le Deuil (Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus)
Hamlet - Acte I - 2ème Tableau : L'esplanade - Scène De L'Esplanade - Invocation : Spectre Infernal ! Image Vénérée ! (Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus)
Hamlet - Acte I - 2ème Tableau : L'esplanade - Scène De L'Esplanade : Ecoute Moi
Hamlet - Acte I - 2ème Tableau : L'esplanade - Scène De L'Esplanade : Entracte
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Air D'Ophélie : Sa Main Depuis Hier
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Air D'Ophélie : Les Serments Ont Des Ailes
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Récitatif : Je Croyais Près De Vous Trouver Mon Fils (La Reine, Ophélie)
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Arioso : Dans Son Regard Plus Sombre (La Reine, Ophélie)
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Duo : L'âme De Votre Fils Est À Jamais Troublée (Le Roi, La Reine, Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Récit Et Choeur Des Comédiens : Voici Les Histrions Mandés Par Vous (Marcellus, Horatio, Choeur)
Hamlet - Acte II - 1er Tableau : Les Jardins Du Palais - Chanson Bacchique : O Vin, Dissipe La Tristesse (Hamlet, Choeur, Marcellus, Horatio)
Hamlet - Acte II - 2ème Tableau : La Grande Salle Du Palais Éclairée Pour Une Fête - Marche Danoise, Récit Et Prologue : Belle, Permettez-Nous (Hamlet, Ophélie)
Hamlet - Acte II - 2ème Tableau : La Grande Salle Du Palais Éclairée Pour Une Fête - Pantomime Et Finale : C'est Le Vieux Roi Gonzague (Hamlet, Le Roi, La Reine, Choeur, Ophélie)
Hamlet - Acte II - 2ème Tableau : La Grande Salle Du Palais Éclairée Pour Une Fête : O Mortelle Offense ! (Le Roi, Ophélie, Marcellus, Polonius, Horatio, La Reine, Choeur)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Entracte Et Monologue : J'ai Pu Frapper Le Misérable (Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Entracte Et Monologue : Etre Ou Ne Pas Être (Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Récit Et Air De Basse : Mais Qui Donc Ose Me Suivre ? (Hamlet, Le Roi)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Récit Et Air De Basse : Je T'implore, Ô Mon Frère ! (Le Roi, Hamlet, Polonius)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Trio : Le Voilà ! Je Veux Lire Enfin Dans Sa Pensée (La Reine, Ophélie, Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Trio : Allez Dans Un Cloître, Allez, Ophélie (Hamlet, La Reine, Ophélie)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Duo : Hamlet, Ma Douleur Est Immense (La Reine, Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Duo : Ah ! Que Votre Âme Sans Refuge (Hamlet, La Reine)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Duo : Pardonne, Hélàs ! Ta Voix M'accable ! (La Reine, Hamlet)
Hamlet - Acte III - Une Chambre De L'appartement De La Reine - Duo : Mon Fils ! (Le Spectre, Hamlet, La Reine)

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN TO ARKIVMUSIC STREAMING.
TRY IT NOW FOR FREE!
Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $19.95/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In