Berlioz: Les Troyens

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Les Troyens
PERFORMER: Françoise Pollet, Deborah Voigt, Gino Quilico, Gary Lakes, Hélène Perraguin, John Mark AinsleyMontreal SO & Chorus/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 443 693-2 DDD
Twenty-five years after Colin Davis (Philips), Dutoit offers only the second complete version of Berlioz’s masterpiece. Although including the ‘Sinon’ scene (cut and partly destroyed by Berlioz), it is complementary, not a replacement. A big plus is the largely francophone cast, the Americans learning by example. Gary Lakes’s Aeneas is perhaps less exciting than Jon Vickers (whose French is a pain)but his lyricism scores higher in the rapturous love duet. Françoise Pollet has the range of Dido’s emotions but fails to attract sympathy because, as with her sister (Hélène Perraguin), the voice is unfocused through excess vibrato. The many lesser roles are well filled. Ravishing string tone brings expression to the vital middle registers, but ensemble is not always perfect and the balance is less than ideal, with obtrusive cornets, backward woodwind, and a chorus unable to compete with the orchestra, notably at the end.

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Dutoit has the measure of the epic whole, but while his tempi are properly lively, he is needlessly unyielding, sometimes ignoring even notated ritardandi. Is he perhaps uninterested in words? The recitative tends towards squareness, blandness, even; Deborah Voigt’s Cassandra, stabbing herself, sings ‘la douleur n’est rien’, and the conductor also misses the pain. Julian Rushton