Mehul

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Mehul
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Stratonice
PERFORMER: Patricia Petibon, Yann Beuron, Étienne Lescroart, Karl Daymond; Cappella & Corona Coloniensis/William Christie
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-12714-2 DDD
Fresh from The Magic Flute, Christie has turned to an opera written just a year later, in 1792, but as little known as The Magic Flute is popular. Stratonice certainly fills a gap in the catalogue – otherwise empty of operas by Méhul (1763-1817), darling of revolutionary France – but it’s hard to imagine it catching on in the theatre.

Advertisement

If it weren’t for the spoken dialogue, Stratonice would have ended up at the Paris Opéra. As it was, the audience at the Comédie-Italienne must have been surprised by the serious mood of this piece, termed a comédie héroïque. Both music and plot are as Classically dignified as the Grecian columns on the CD cover. Each of the three male soloists has a recitative and air; of these, Karl Daymond’s baritone fills out the graceful, flowing lines most naturally.

The overture best displays the dramatic writing that Beethoven must have remembered when writing Fidelio; Méhul, however, said that in this piece he wanted to prove he could ‘silence the timpani and trombone where necessary’, and the promise of drama in the overture isn’t really fulfilled.

Advertisement

Christie, conducting his Cologne-based forces of Cappella and Corona Coloniensis makes the most of the expressive opportunities afforded and extracts polished performances all round. Janet Banks