COMPOSERS: Auber,Berlioz,Gounod,Massenet,Offenbach,Ravel,Saint-Sa‘ns,Thomas & Chabrier
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: L’étoile
WORKS: Arias by Offenbach, Massenet, Auber, Saint-Saëns, Berlioz, Gounod, Ravel, Thomas & Chabrier
PERFORMER: Jennifer Larmore; Vienna Concert Choir, Vienna RSO/Bertrand de Billy
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-87193-2
Calling a disc L’étoile risks charges of hubris, but Jennifer Larmore is a mezzo of the starriest order, and it’s hard to imagine a more engaging showcase for her luxuriant voice and formidable technique. From Auber (the bravura piece ‘Ô Palerme,
Ô Sicile’ from Zerline, with its thrilling coloratura) to Ravel (‘Oh! la pitoyable aventure’ from L’heure espagnole, with its frustrated emotion), via Massenet, Offenbach and Thomas, this winning recital of French arias, some familiar, some not, is proof of daunting and undaunted versatility.
As Dalila (Saint-Saëns’s ‘Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix’) or a sublimely tragic Marguerite (‘D’amour l’ardente flamme’ from La damnation de Faust), she is blissfully enraptured. And she is equally convincing in the face of death. Her Dido (‘Je vais mourir’ from Berlioz’s Les troyens) is searing and heartfelt, as is her supremely tragic Sapho, as Gounod’s eponymous heroine contemplates the raging waters into which she’s about to plunge.
But for all the fabulous dark colours in her voice and her impassioned characterisation – amplified by the urgent, dramatic atmosphere conjured by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra – Larmore has a lighter side, as ‘Je suis Lazuli’ from Chabrier’s L’étoile proves to exhilarating effect, all laughter, wit and impeccably enunciated patter. Claire Wrathall