Meyerbeer, Gounod, Berlioz, Thomas, Saint-Sa‘ns, etc

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Berlioz,etc,Gounod,Meyerbeer,Saint-Sa‘ns,Thomas
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Nuit Resplendissante
WORKS: Arias
PERFORMER: Vesselina Kasarova (mezzo-soprano); Munich Radio Orchestra/Frédéric Chaslin
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 67667 2
If there is a pretender to Bartoli’s throne, it is surely the sensational Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova. Her voice may not be quite as distinctive, her facility so breathtakingly showy, but it’s phenomenal nonetheless – a great burnished flexible instrument that rises from a resonant contralto to a ringingly secure top. Just listen to the flirtatious fioriture in Urbain’s admonishing aria ‘Non, vous n’avez jamais, je gage’ from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots.

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It’s as a tragedienne, however, that Kasarova really excels. And this outstanding recital of 19th-century French arias (by Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Massenet, Thomas and so on) offers her a panoply of varyingly traumatised heroines, none greater than the suicidal Sapho, eponymous heroine of Gounod’s first, failed opera, as she prepares to throw herself to certain death. Though Dido’s passionate ‘Je vais mourir’ from Berlioz’s Les troyens and Fidès’s desperate ‘Donnez pour une pauvre âme’ from Meyerbeer’s Le prophète come close. But Kasarova is nothing if not versatile. Her Mignon (‘Connais-tu le pays?’) is touchingly girlish and fresh; and she is a seductive and determined Dalila (‘Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse’).

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Frédéric Chaslin draws wonderfully luminous and expressive playing from the Munich Radio Orchestra, making a convincing case for these orchestrally rich, dramatically powerful and all too often overlooked operas to be revived. Claire Wrathall