Elle: French Opera Arias

Marina Rebeke (soprano); St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra/Michael Balke (Prima Classic)

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CD_PRIMA004_Elle

Elle – French Opera Arias
Arias by Charpentier, Massenet, Gounod, Bizet & Debussy
Marina Rebeke (soprano); St. Gallen Symphony Orchestra/Michael Balke
Prima Classic PRIMA004   72:35 mins

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The Latvian soprano Marina Rebeka has been busy in recent years with opera performances, masterclasses, solo recitals and recordings. This is her fourth solo album and although the first three centred on what many consider to be her natural (Italian) territory – Mozart, Rossini and the bel canto repertoire of Bellini and Donizetti – this latest disc reveals to us a mellifluous and affective vocal sensibility well suited to French operatic traditions.

In Bizet’s ‘Me voilà seule dans la nuit’ (Les pêcheurs de perles), for example, she magically captures the nocturnal atmospheric calm felt by Léïla as her lover watches over her, while in Gounod’s ‘Les grands seigneurs’ (Faust) the coquettish excitement of Marguerite is entertainingly displayed as she tries on trinkets from a jewellery box. Rebeka commandeers a similar vivacity and panache in Gounod’s ‘Ah! Je veux vivre’ (Roméo et Juliette). The Massenet pieces prove slightly more challenging. The fears and hopes of ‘Ah, je suis seule’ (Thaïs) are projected with great theatricality and they culminate in an ecstatic top D, but the heartache of ‘De cet affreux combat’ (Le Cid) is signalled here largely by standard vocal cries and surface descriptions rather than by vulnerable internal feelings. Rebeka’s technical control is everywhere evident but again it is hard not to notice that her Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen lacks something of the dark sensuality and poison (with appropriate vocal colouring) that it seems to require. The orchestral playing throughout is supportive and detailed, though sometimes acoustically a little distant.

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Anthony Pryer