COMPOSERS: Berlioz,de Lisle,Halévy,Massenet,Meyerbeer
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Airs Franais
WORKS: Arias by Berlioz, Halévy, Massenet, Meyerbeer & de Lisle
PERFORMER: Ben Heppner (tenor); London Voices, LSO/Myung-Whun Chung
CATALOGUE NO: 471 372-2
After Alagna and Álvarez, the vogue for tenor recitals of French opera arias continues with this compilation drawn from 19th-century Romantic works and sung by Ben Heppner, the revered Canadian Heldentenor. Heppner may be best known as a Wagnerian, but he has also recorded songs by Ivor Novello and Noel Coward. And this versatility – allied to a range that stretches from a robust dark chest voice to an assured falsetto, infinite flexibility, a beautiful, burnished tone and excellent French with voluptuously rolled Rs – marks him out as exceptional in this repertoire. The programme, too, is intelligent: a balance of familiar Berlioz and Massenet, and less frequently heard extracts from Halévy's La juïve and Meyerbeer's Le prophète, which Berlioz considered his finest opera and was also purportedly the first to feature performers on roller skates. And there are other surprises too: the disc ends with a powerful Marseillaise. But by far the greatest section – almost half an hour's worth – is devoted to Berlioz. And once again the LSO, this time under Myung-Whun Chung, demonstrates just how accomplished it is in this repertoire, whether it's the great brooding start to 'Nature immense' from The Damnation of Faust or the sparkling enchantment of 'Ah! Je vais 1'aimer' from Béatrice and Bénédict.