COMPOSERS: Bizet,Bruneau,David,Février,Franck,Godard,Halévy,Massenet,Niedermeyer & Saint-Saëns
LABELS: Alpha Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Visions
WORKS: Works by Bizet, Bruneau, David, Février, Franck, Godard, Halévy, Massenet, Niedermeyer & Saint-Saëns
PERFORMER: Véronique Gens (soprano), Munich Radio Orchestra/Hervé Niquet
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 279
The bad news first. You’ll need an opera dictionary before you’re ready for Véronique Gens’s Visions. The 11 recitatives and airs here are from unfamiliar 19th-century French repertoire and the liner notes that accompany the CD are, to put it mildly, casual and uninformative.
So there is nothing about composers like Alfred Bruneau, Abraham Louis Niedermeyer or Benjamin Louis Paul Godard. Nothing, either, about their librettists and no attempt to put each number into a dramatic context.
Frankly, the title Visionsis pretty misleading too. Despite the harps and bells, these are airs that dramatise those operatic staples, the abandoned heroine and the woman who loves the wrong man. Even when César Franck apostrophises the Virgin Mary in his quasi oratorio Rédemptionit’s as much profane as sacred love.
Now the good news. Véronique Gens is in fine voice – indeed, she seems to be in her prime. Her diction as always is immaculate and she produces a stream of elegant tone. There is light and shade in the simple air from Bizet’s Clovis et Clotilde,and the required vocal heft to ride Massenet’s orchestra in the number from La Vierge. But it’s at her prayers that she excels; in Février’s Gismondaor Bruneau’s Geneviève. You almost begin to wonder what it would like to see these works staged – but not quite.