Piotr Beczala: The French Collection

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz,Boieldieu,Donizetti,Gounod and Bizet,Massenet,Verdi
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Piotr Beczala: The French Collection
WORKS: Arias by Massenet, Berlioz, Verdi, Boieldieu, Donizetti, Gounod and Bizet
PERFORMER: Piotr Beczala (tenor), Diana Damrau (soprano); Orchestre de l’Opéra National de Lyon/Alain Altinoglu
CATALOGUE NO: 479 4101

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The Polish tenor here turns his attention to the 19th-century French repertoire, still considered outside the mainstream of operatic activity even after a resurgence in the last decade or so. Crucially, his linguistic abilities are up to the challenge, and throughout the recital his French proves genuinely idiomatic.

So does his appreciation of French style, with its important focus on declamation of the text as a fundamental; studying old recordings and other critical sources has apparently added to Beczala’s understanding of how these pieces were and should be sung.

This pays huge dividends. A wide variety of dynamics and some thrilling top notes bring him success as Massenet’s doomed Romantic poet in Werther. In a solo from the same composer’s Le Cid, his vocalism is admirably focused and sculpted with infinite care. He fines down his voice to a perfect pianissimo in the extract from Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, in which the Lyon orchestra, conducted by Alain Altinoglu, makes something extraordinarily refined out of the postlude; indeed they are excellent throughout.

Beczala demonstrates remarkable breath control in pieces from Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedict and Donizetti’s La favorite, and suggests the loneliness of Verdi’s Don Carlos in the character’s opening solo as well as delivering an impeccable Flower Song from Carmen. Diana Damrau joins him in a duet from Massenet’s Manon, though here her vocalism has marginally less conviction than his.

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George Hall