Boesmans: Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne

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LABELS: Cypres
WORKS: Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne
PERFORMER: Dörte Lyssewski, Mireille Delunsch, Paul Gay, Yann Beuron, Victor von Halem, Hannah Esther Minutillo, Jason Bridges, Jean-Luc Ballestra, Guillaume Antoine, Marce Cossu-Leonian; Ensemble Vocal Les Jeunes Soloistes; Klangforum Wien/ Sylvain Cambreling


Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne is the fifth opera by Belgian composer Philippe Boesmans. A black comedy, it tells of how Philippe, the Prince of Bourgogne, shuns beauties and chooses the ugly Yvonne as his fiancée.

The King and Queen are horrified, and Yvonne awakens all sorts of inner demons among the royal household. However, Yvonne’s personality is no more attractive than her looks. By the time she is murdered, it is hard to find much sympathy with any of the characters.

There are a few laughs along the way (non-French speakers may rue the booklet’s lack of a translation), but they tend to feel uncomfortable in what is, ultimately, a tragedy. On CD Boesmans’s eclectic and attractive score comes to the fore, with plenty of sources of reference, from Strauss and Koechlin to Bernstein.


Nonetheless, there is much to savour, especially vocally, even if Yvonne is an almost mute spoken part. Mireille Delunsch’s spell-binding lyrical outpouring in the final Act as the Queen is especially memorable, while Paul Gay and Yann Beuron are also very impressive. Christopher Dingle