WORKS: Le pays
PERFORMER: Mireille Delunsch, Gilles Ragon, Olivier Lallouette; Luxembourg PO/Jean-Yves Ossonce
CATALOGUE NO: 2C 2065
Not just a neglected corner of French operatic history, this is a nook that few probably knew about in the first place. Joseph Guy Ropartz (1864-1955) was a Franck pupil and disciple who held important posts including that of director of the Strasbourg Conservatoire, where in succeeding Hans Pfitzner his job was to redress a Teutonic imbalance. Strasbourg was but one of the places in which this patriotic Breton lived in ‘exile’, and his longing for Brittany is expressed in some of the most significant of his 200 or so works, including his only opera, Le pays.
Based on a short story by Charles Le Goffic, one of Brittany’s answers to Provence’s Frédéric Mistral, the three-act Le pays may be set in Iceland but it tells of the shipwrecked Breton sailor Tual who longs for home. He is never to return: having fallen in and then out of love with the Icelandic girl Kaethe, he is sucked into a bog. A fine cast makes a good case for this opera: Mireille Delunsch sings with passion and glowing lyricism as Kaethe, Gilles Ragon gives a powerful performance as the tortured Tual, and Olivier Lallouette is strong as Kaethe’s father, Jörgen. Jean-Yves Ossonce leads the Luxembourg Philharmonic with sweep through this darkly impressive score. John Allison