Meyerbeer: L’etoile du nord

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COMPOSERS: Meyerbeer
LABELS: Marco Polo
WORKS: L’etoile du nord
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Futral, Vladimir Ognev, Darina Takova, Aled Hall; Wexford Festival Opera Chorus, National SO of Ireland/Wladimir Jurowski
CATALOGUE NO: 8.223829/31
For all the polemics that surround his grand operas, Giacomo Meyerbeer himself didn’t regard his works as high art but as artistic entertainments. And of them, this opera-comique (an 1854 revision of his earlier Ein Feld/ager in Sch/esien) is one of the most entertaining. Scribe’s libretto concerns the love of Tsar Peter the Great (disguised as a carpenter) and a Finnish beauty, Catherine, whom he makes his empress. Sweet love music rubs elbows with brassy military numbers and piquant ensembles. Meyerbeer’s melodic inspiration runs high, especially in Catherine’s tender prayer, familiarised in Constant Lambert’s Meyerbeer pastiche for Ashton’s ballet Les patineurs. The cast in this live recording made at the 1996 Wexford Opera Festival is adequate if not breathtaking. But as Catherine, the American Elizabeth Futral sings with noteworthy charm, especially in the lengthy mad scene with two (count ’em) obbligato flutes. The most satisfying element is Wladimir Jurowski’s conducting, both vigorous and lyrical. Barrymore Laurence Scherer