A Tribute to Pauline Viardot
Arias by Bellini, Berlioz, Donizetti, Gluck, Gounod, Halévy, Massenet, Rossini and Saint-Saëns
Marina Viotti (mezzo-soprano); Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
Aparté AP290 70:00 mins
A late bicentenary birthday offering to one of the most intriguing of 19th-century musicians. Pauline Viardot was born in 1821 and lived on at the centre of musical Paris until 1910. Her father was the tenor Manuel Garcia who created Rossini’s Count Almaviva and her sister Maria Malibran whose premature death after a horseriding accident let the younger Pauline step into the limelight.
Viardot made her mark in Berlioz’s version of Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, and the Swiss-born mezzo Marina Viotti, with caramel-tones and a voice that nestles comfortably within her middle range, takes the aria ‘Amour, render à mon âme’ at full tilt. Viotti and Christophe Rousset, directing Les Talens Lyriques, survey all of Viardot’s principal roles from Rossini and Bellini to Massenet and Saint-Säens’s Dalila, which she never sang on stage. Imperceptibly Viotti makes them her own, tender but tough in Rosina’s ‘Una voce poco fa’ and producing a cascade of diamond-bright coloratura in ‘Bel raggio lusinghier’, as well as an astonishing glissando and an impressively ringing final top note.
By comparison, her Dido in Les Troyens and Gounod’s ‘Ô Ma Lyre Immortelle’ from Sappho are slightly underpowered, which is never true of Christophe Rousset’s Les Talens Lyriques, though in the overture to Semiramide the piccolo seems determined to make its presence heard and the flutes twitch uncomfortably in the overture to Donizetti’s La favorite. The English translations in the accompanying booklet are decidedly eccentric!