Opera Arias: Gluck, Haydn and Mozart
Marie-Nicole Lemieux’s selection of arias comes from the second half of the 18th century. All are well-known composers, except for Carl Heinrich Graun, whose Montezuma (1755), setting a libretto written by Frederick the Great, is the earliest work here. All but the French-language extract from Gluck’s Iphigénie en Aulide – Clytemnestra’s furious outburst on learning that her daughter, Iphigenia, is to be sacrificed to speed the Greek fleet on its way to Troy – is in Italian.
The Canadian contralto’s depth is genuine, even if there’s a mezzo quality higher up. Hers may not be the richest or most rounded tone around, but she delivers everything assigned to her with a keen dramatic overview in such comparatively familiar pieces as Cherubino’s ‘Voi che sapete’ from Figaro, or Sesto’s ‘Deh, per questo istante solo’ from La clemenza di Tito, as well as Judith’s extraordinary aria from Mozart’s rarely performed oratorio La Betulia liberata. Her ability to extract meaning from text and notes is impressive throughout. Vivid background colour is provided by the period-instrument forces of the Quebec-based Les Violons du Roy, under the crisp direction of Bernard Labadie.