Bizet: Clovis et Clotilde

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bizet
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Clovis et Clotilde; Te Deum
PERFORMER: Katarina Jovanovic (soprano), Philippe Do (tenor), Mark Schnaible (bass); North Regional Choir, Pas-de-Calais; Orchestre National de Lille/Jean-Claude Casadesus
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572270

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This Casadesus version of Clovis et Clotilde comes some 20 years after his first (recorded on Warner), and if he was hoping for a more sonorous acoustic this time, he must have been pleased. But otherwise it’s hard to feel the reprise has been justified. 

Bizet’s cantata, which won him the Prix de Rome in 1857, contains some lovely moments and a few characteristic things, even if the influences (of Gounod, Donizetti, Weber) are still detectable.

It shows Bizet the orchestrator far beyond the apprentice stage. But it would be too much to expect any real depth of feeling here – Bizet, an agnostic at the very least, can have had no sympathy with Clovis’s conversion to Christianity – and Casadesus’s interpretation differs barely at all from his first.

Otherwise, both Katarina Jovanovic on the new recording and Montserrat Caballé on the old float beautiful high notes, but when they turn on the boosters, tone suffers and Jovanovic’s vibrato widens.

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The men are much of a muchness, and for both recordings one needs the assistance of the text (for the Naxos disc, on their website). Recording quality aside, perhaps the deciding factor may be the accompanying item: on the 1988 disc, a sprightly version of Roma, on the present one, a Te Deum, described by Winton Dean as ‘a wretched work’. I have to agree. Roger Nichols