Offenbach: Belle Nuit

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Offenbach
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Offenbach
WORKS: Belle nuit: arias from Pomme d’api, La périchole, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, La Grande-duchesse de Géroldstein, La belle Hélène, Barbe-bleue, Orphée aux enfers
PERFORMER: Vesselina Kasarova (mezzo-soprano), Melissa Shippen (soprano); Bavarian Radio Chorus; Munich Radio
Orchestra/Ulf Schirmer
CATALOGUE NO: 88697234552

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Is Offenbach served up in ‘bleeding chunks’ really the tastiest way of digesting this wittiest of composers? Who cares when Vesselina Kasarova is in the kitchen. Here’s a proper mezzo with a gravelly lower register and also a brassy top to the voice as she rounds off the Can Can at the end of Orphée aux enfers. There’s a seductive lilt to the CD’s title track, ‘Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour’ (Les Contes d’Hoffmann) with Kasarova in duet with Melissa Shippen as the Venetian Courtesan, Giulietta. And Kasarova’s Grand Duchess of Gerolstein is very grand. But best of all are the Overture and two numbers from Barbe-bleue. The second, ‘Faut‑il y aller…’ bubbles over into toe-tapping delight. Kasarova doesn’t just sing; she ‘performs’ the music. Christopher Cook