Notes and Editorial Reviews
BBC Music Magazine Opera Choice - August 2020
Following acclaimed performances at the Edinburgh Festival and then in Melbourne, Sir Andrew Davis’s recording of Massenet’s opera Thaïs features an outstanding cast, and exceptional performances from his Toronto forces. Written shortly after the premiere of his masterpiece Werther, Thaïs was composed for the Californian soprano Sybil Sanderson who gave the premiere at the Paris Opéra in 1894. Sanderson's performance was a triumph, but the opera itself had a mixed reception. After Massenet revised it in 1898 it went on to worldwide success in the years leading up to World War I and has enjoyed continuous and growing success in our own time. The role of Thaïs has drawn many great artists, including Mary Garden, Geraldine Farrar, Maria Jeritza, Leontyne Price, Beverley Sills, and Renée Fleming. According to the Financial Times, ‘Erin Wall is the Thaïs of one’s dreams, wielding a soprano of radiance, pristine beauty and tingling top notes”, and she is joined on the recording by Joshua Hopkins in the role of Athanaël, while Nicias is sung by Andrew Staples.
To Thais herself Erin Wall brings a clean, pliant soprano used with discretion and judgement. Dark of presence, Joshua Hopkins makes a vehement Athanaël. Davis presents a perceptive account of one of Massenet’s best creations, the Canadian orchestra offering fine-textured playing as they respond with assurance to the composer’s unerring gift for scene painting. It surpasses many earlier efforts not only in terms of casting and conducting, but also in taking one of Massenet’s finest scores seriously.
– BBC Music Magazine
Davis's understanding of Massenet’s often deliberate blurring of the dividing line between sensual and spiritual experience is unquestionably acute. The playing is excellent, with a refined sensuousness of texture throughout. Hopkins's is a remarkable, unforgettable performance, sung with consistently expressive beauty, and quite superbly characterised.