Tragédiennes 2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Cherubini,de Arriaga and Berlioz,Gluck,Gretry,Rameau,Sacchini
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Arias and ballets by Gluck, Sacchini, Grétry, Rameau, Cherubini, de Arriaga and Berlioz
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens (soprano); Les Talens Lyriques/Christophe Rousset
CATALOGUE NO: 216 5742

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Passion, ardour, rage, tenderness – the full gamut of human expression emerges in this selection of works created for French operatic femmes fatales.

Music director Christophe Rousset and soprano Véronique Gens’s second disc of musical Tragediénnes is a thrilling mix of the familiar (Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice, Rameau’s Les Paladins, Berlioz’s Les Troyens) and the little known – Piccini’s heart-wrenching Didon; Gluck’s compelling Alceste; the tragic Medea of Cherubini (not for nothing did Beethoven think him the greatest composer of his day), and Herminie by Arriaga (1806-26), known as ‘the Spanish Mozart’ but here sounding more  Berlioz.

Yet the programme’s not all about female histrionics: Rousset balances emotive arias with lighter dance music and Gluck’s fiery orchestral Air de Furies. The whole makes a wonderful odyssey through late Baroque to early Romantic French opera.  Gens’s agile voice is the perfect vehicle to cope with these emotional extremes, from the enchanting to the chilling. She is never afraid to sacrifice pure beauty of sound in favour of rhetorical and dramatic effect, giving due weight to the plights, laments and plangent outpourings of these timeless, tragic heroines.

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Rousset coaxes some crack playing from Les Talens Lyriques, combining the immediacy and intimacy of chamber music with all the colours and intensity of a large-scale symphony orchestra. Kate Bolton