Thursday, June 2, 2011

Massenet - Cendrillon (Cinderella) - Stade, Gedda, Rudel, Philharmonia Orchestra

 


 

 

 

 

Review:

This set positively sparkles with joy. Its fairy-tale story, known surely to all (Cinderella) is perfectly suited to the masterly craft of Jules Massenet, whose operas must surely soon receive the full attention they deserve. The magic/fairytale element clearly suited Massenet’s wide and sensitive orchestral palette, while the vivacious story of Princes, magic and balls makes for pure delight. The cast here is really rather starry, boasting the likes of von Stade, Gedda and Bastin.

Julius Rudel After an introduction that fizzes along, the chorus shows their prowess (‘Chez Madame de la Haltière’). Yet it is the focused voice of Jules Bastin’s Pandolfe that really impresses. In tandem with Rudel’s exemplary pacing, every word is clear. Bastin’s aria (Scene 2, ‘Du côte de la barbe’) is excellent, with the singer placing his high notes perfectly. Again fast and clear, Bastin’s projection of the comedic ‘Félicitez-moi donc’ and his ensuing contributions (track 7) are perfectly done. Wherever he sings, Bastin is focused and his pitching is uniformly true. Cinderella has to wait until Scene 5 (track 8) before she enters our consciousness in the rather sighing line ‘Ah! Que mes soeurs sont heureuse!’. Von Stade is magnificent in providing just the right bleak tone appropriate for her character’s malaise. How plaintive is the simple cry of ‘Ah!’, how meaningful the phrase ‘Résigne-toi, Cendrille’. Her joy at the end of the act is similarly brought to life (the repetitions of ‘Je suis Reine’, for example). Or try von Stade in Act 3 Scene 1, her tuning faultless, her scales sparking away, her pitching clean. During the course of this performance it is easy to sympathize with Cinderella’s distress, as well as to smile with her.

Nicolai Gedda’s Prince Charming matches von Stade’s Cinders. His Act 2 Scene 2 shows off his truly lovely round tone to perfection and it is worth noting that he is thoroughly convincing here, despite the cheesiness of some of the lines he has to sing (‘Coeur sans amour, printemps sans roses’ …). It is at moments like this that I wondered the omission of a libretto might not be so bad after all …. When Cinderella and her Prince are in duet (Act 2 Scene 4), it is all one could have hoped for. Gedda provides an outpouring of passion against von Stade’s lovely, simple and tender innocence. Their voices are suited to a tee. Again, Gedda’s ardent singing warms the heart towards the end of Act 3. As mentioned above, Ruth Welting is superb. She emits an aura of the approachably supernatural with her vocal twists and turns, and her thoroughly delightful trills. The other star of this set is the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. Massenet puts his chorus to good use, and the Ambrosian responds with disciplined yet touching singing, the Fairies floating along nicely (CD2 Track 10). The sparkling repartee of Noémie (Teresa Cahill) and Dorothée (Elizabeth Bainbridge) in Act 3 Scene 2 exemplifies these singers’ grasp of Massenet’s world while Jane Berbié’s strong mezzo cuts an imposing Madame de la Haltière.

Julius Rudel’s command is never once in doubt and it is good that his orchestra gets the chance to shine in the Dances of Act 2 (CD 1, Tracks 15-19), but the many felicities of scoring throughout the opera mean that the Philharmonia is a source of constant delight...This is a Recording of the Month if ever there was one.-- Colin Clarke

 

 

flac, covers

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