Ulf Schirmer conducts Gounod’s Cinq-Mars

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Gounod
LABELS: Ediciones Singulares
ALBUM TITLE: Gounod
WORKS: Cinq-Mars
PERFORMER: Mathias Vidal, Véronique Gens, Tassis Christoyannis; Bavarian Radio Choir; Munich Radio Orchestra/Ulf Schirmer
CATALOGUE NO: ES 1024  

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‘The dreamt-of triumph did not materialise, but even so there was no question of having to lament a flop and, with its 57 performances, the new work took its place among the most honourable succès d’estime.’ We can only applaud the Palazzetto Bru Zane in promoting neglected operas and in providing notes that are both scholarly and unencumbered by jargon. Inevitably there are hits and misses. Certainly the fact that Cinq-Mars, following the above run at the Opéra-Comique in 1877 and the less-than-ecstatic contemporary review, never made it into the 20th century, should not by itself be a reason to write the work off indefinitely. But since Cinq-Mars was Gounod’s first opera since Roméo et Juliette a full decade earlier, there was a huge scramble for tickets to begin with, and understandably a parallel reluctance to admit that enthusiasm had sadly been misplaced. For a start, there are no memorable tunes. Time and again, too, Gounod falls back on autopilot – unexceptionable, but also unexceptional. 

In this performance the baritone Tassis Christoyannis is by some way the easiest on the ear, and he phrases beautifully, but Matthias Vidal in the title role is in no sense the heroic tenor it requires. The orchestral playing is sound.

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Roger Nichols