What a wonderful surprise! Eino Tamberg, an Estonian composer born in 1930, is a true, unabashed neo-Romantic with great respect for the "forms" of opera. This beautifully scored 100-minute-long work dating from 1974 is filled with arias, duets, and choral interjections. Its action is fleet and natural, the orchestra comments on the characters and helps us know them, and there are many lovely melodies amid some satirical orchestral commentary. The sentimental moments--Roxane's aria that opens Act 2; the balcony scene, in which Cyrano speaks for Christian; the deaths of both Christian and Cyrano--are never maudlin. They are dispatched without being underlined for the listener, and in their brevity and directness they're immensely effective. The recitatives are lively and equally realistic. Tamberg seems not to belong to any "school"; he's just a swell composer of a genuinely beautiful opera.
The performance, sung in Estonian (which is almost exactly like Finnish, if that helps), is ravishing. Baritone Sauli Tiilikainen is the centerpiece as Cyrano; his voice is just the right mixture of lyrical and heroic for his dual personalities, and he wins us over the moment he starts to sing. Roxane is sung by an exquisite coloratura named Mia Huhta; throughout, she is girlish and sincere, her upper register silvery, and she seems thoroughly involved in the action. Christian also wins our sympathies in the person of tenor Mati Körts. His voice may not be particularly lush, but he sings with great soul and innocence. The rest of the cast is convincing.
Conductor Paul Mägi leads a truly theatrical performance and his Estonian National Opera Orchestra and Chorus play and sing magnificently, the wind section of the orchestra being particularly impressive in its phrasing and bright outbursts. The sound is gorgeous and the informative booklet includes a synopsis as well as the libretto in Estonian, English, French, and German. I can't recommend this highly enough. [7/13/2004]
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com