Auber, Gounod, Massenet, Verdi, Berlioz, Ravel, Thomas, Bo•eldieu, Offenbach & Bizet

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Auber,Berlioz,Boieldieu,Gounod,Massenet,Offenbach & Bizet,Ravel,Thomas,Verdi
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: French Arias
WORKS: Arias by Auber, Gounod, Massenet, Verdi, Berlioz, Ravel, Thomas, Boïeldieu, Offenbach & Bizet
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kozená; Musiciens du Louvre Chorus, Mahler CO/Marc Minkowski
CATALOGUE NO: 474 214-2
Whatever next? The white-hot hope of the Baroque repertoire consorting with a clutch of 19th-century French heroines. Not strictly French though, since Magdalena Kozená tries on Carmen for size and even dons the Princess Eboli’s veil. (And with Marc Minkowski keeping everything light and airy it fits pretty well – in the studio that is. Even sung in the original French, Verdi’s Don Carlos is not a real choice on stage.)

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In every other respect this CD is both a surprise and a delight. The lightness of the voice, the ease with which Kozená moves up the vocal register – challenging our received notions of where a mezzo ends and a soprano begins – shows her to be an ideal artist in repertoire from Auber to Ravel. There’s exquisite singing, the most silvery of legatos, in ‘Nuit resplendissante’ from Gounod’s Cinq mars and both she and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra relish Massenet’s orientalism in ‘J’ai versé la poison’ from Cléopâtre – Kozená’s octave drop into the chest on the word ‘versé’ is quite thrilling. This is exactly what the French repertoire has been pining for.

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However, it’s the gift for drama that Kozená brings to ‘Reste au foyer, petit grillon’ from Massenet’s Cendrillon that sets the mind racing. Why not on stage? It’s a role that fits her voice like… a glass slipper. Christopher Cook