Berlioz: Les Troyens
Enhance your purchase
Frequently bought together
Taken from concert performances in Strasbourg that were described as “the musical event of the year”, this recording of Berlioz’s epic Les Troyens presents the score absolutely complete. John Nelson, unrivalled in his authority in this mighty work, conducts a cast led by Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Cassandre, Joyce DiDonato as Didon and Michael Spyres as Énée.This new Erato recording of the complete, uncut score of Les Troyens is drawn from two concert performances that took place over the Easter weekend in April 2017 in the city of Strasbourg in eastern France. A magnificent cast of singers, predominantly Francophone, assembled under the baton of John Nelson, an acknowledged master of Berlioz’s music who has conducted Les Troyens more frequently than anyone else over a period of more than 40 years; he made his name with the piece when he led performances at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1974 and enjoyed great acclaim for a production at the Frankfurt Opera shortly before the Strasbourg concerts.
- Product Dimensions : 5.16 x 5.12 x 0.94 inches; 9.81 Ounces
- Manufacturer : Warner Classics
- Original Release Date : 2017
- Date First Available : July 27, 2017
- Label : Warner Classics
- ASIN : B0749LRN1C
- Country of Origin : USA
- Number of discs : 4
Best Sellers Rank:
#94,450 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
- #2,992 in Chamber Music (CDs & Vinyl)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
LES TROYENS was performed (albeit abridged) in the first half of the 20th Century (one would like to have heard Leider, Branzell and Roswaenge under Leo Blech in Berlin, 1930!). After the war heightened interest in Berlioz led to a succession of distinguished performances and recordings. By the time Hermann Scherchen recorded Part II in the early 1950s, Beecham had already performed the work nearly complete in London (1947). Those traversals remain available to this day. Rafael Kubelik took up the work, performing it in English at Covent Garden (Vickers and Thebom among the singers), in Italian at La Scala (del Monaco, Rankin, Simionato and the young Cossotto as Anna), and ultimately at the MET, again with Vickers, Verrett and Ludwig. Colin Davis brought it back to Covent Garden (in French) and Levine revived it at the MET, with a notable cast in 1994 and other casts in more recent years. Davis' first recording is now a half century old and still sounds magnificent thanks to digital remastering. Sir Colin had chance to record the work a second time with the LSO in brilliant form but a cast to my ears less commanding than his first. Dutoit performed it in Montreal and made s superb studio set for DECCA. John Eliot Gardiner gave us his view of the work with his crack "period" forces. And . . . there are a number of thrilling live- performance recordings. Truly an embarrassment of riches given the difficulties the work presents.
What need of this new offering from Warner-ERATO? It has, in fact, been the better part of two decades since the 2nd Davis set, and the score benefits enormously from the best in recorded sound. John Nelson, whose experience with the score goes back a half century in NYC deserved his chance at a recording and a provocative cast could be assembled for performances in Strasbourg. This set is the product of two concerts, 15 and 17 April 2017 and a "patch" session on the 18th. Total preparation, concert and recording time required three weeks.
I have spent 3 weeks with this set, have listened to it complete 4 times (3 times straight through) and sampled numerous sections. I listened on three different sound systems in three different rooms. The live concert environment provides for no movement of soloists, but the engineers got excellent depth perspective as well as full breadth of orchestra and chorus and the result is that one hears everything to an extent not always possible in the opera house. I find the sonics totally satisfactory, impactful, and the sound of the Strasbourg forces tonally beautiful. The orchestra is not one of Europe's (or the UK's) famous bands, but it is a very fine ensemble, well rehearsed and they play their hearts out. The choral forces are splendid to my ear; three choruses joined forces here. Based on my listening . . . the bigger the sound system, the better it will sound!
In the last seven decades, some of the world's most notable singers have been heard in this work. The present cast sang into the hall and into the microphones, with the knowledge they would be compared with the likes of Vickers, Chauvet, Domingo, Gedda, Heppner and others as Enee, and in the female roles, (in addition to those named above), Mandikian,Steber, Resnik, Baker, Veasey, Ludwig, Verrett, Bumbry, Horne, Crespin, Norman, Troyanos, Dernesch, Graham, Voigt, Antonacci, and Hunt-Lieberson. Some of those artists took on the roles of both Cassandra and Didon.
The several reviewers who have posted comments prior to mine in this space have divergent views on the present cast. I find that a bit surprising. After living with them for a few weeks, I find almost all the cast members strong, and most very strong. They are not the voices all of us are accustomed to hearing in these roles. Spyres' heady lyric tenor has a lot of metal in it and great upper register ease. I suggest it is the sort of voice for which Berlioz wrote the role. Those used to Vickers, Guy Chauvet or other heroic tenors may be shocked. I would not expect Spyres to essay this role in a hall the size of the MET. But he sounds terrific in Strasbourg and sings with great feeling and artistry as well as technical command.
My choice for Cassandra has long been Jessye Norman in the MET's 1994 staging. In the 21st century Antonacci has owned the role. Mme. Lemieux did not seem the most logical choice--let it be said that she, Spyres and Di Donato were absolutely John Nelson's choices--but in the event she proves, to my ear, a most compelling Cassandra. She captures the crazy, the passion, the fear, and, did I mention the crazy? I like her performance more each time I hear it. So, too, Joyce Di Donato who I felt would not have the right vocal timbre for Didon. I admit to my error: never prejudge! She was in excellent voice for these concerts and develops the character of the tragic queen unerringly through the three acts her role encompasses. It is a remarkable accomplishment. So, too, a number of the cast members excel: Stephane Degout is as fine as any Chorebe I've heard, Hanna Hipp a lovely Anna, and Cyrille Dubois a splendid Iopas. The Hylas is not as tonally lovely as others who have recorded that scene, but his timbre is arresting and not to be mistaken for Dubois' Iopas. No serious weak links in the rest of the cast; rather, a strong group.
It is, however, John Nelson's performance and together he and the engineers have worked to create a TROYENS more lyrical than any performance I know. Or . . the most lyrical since Beecham's 70 years ago. Of modern recordings, it is probably closest to Dutoit, my prior favorite. TROYEN is epic in length and it has a few epic scenes. The bulk of the work, however, is on a human, not heroic, scale, and it is the particular genius of Nelson's reading that he moves seamlessly from one scene to the next, never lagging, and the drama always to the fore. The big moments seem big enough to me, and contrast well, as Berlioz intended. When the volume goes up. the excellent sonics enable the bass and the brass to make full impact. These are my reactions. I am not in any argument with those who hear the performance differently. In a work so complex, there are bound to be different judgments, but for me this is a total success, and a recommendable acquisition. That said . . . I am not discarding any recording currently on my shelves. For someone new to the work, this would be a first recommendation.
A handsome booklet and an 85 minute DVD with extracts from the first concert accompany the four compact discs. Excellent packaging; excellent value.
Trojan military refugees. So I'm glad they recorded this: it's a thoughtful try in several ways, but I suspect will remain a third or fourth choice or me. If I could, I'd give it 3.5 stars-- it's a very 'generous' 4, and some of that is because I suspect now it's harder to get such a large project recorded at all, so some applause for just being able to do that.
If you want some more of Berlioz by Nelson, get the Te Deum. It's great music, and it's got the entire score.
Top reviews from other countries
But what? Not much from the principals, to be fair. Marie-Nicole Lemieux is a solidly powerful if not specially personal Cassandra. Whether or not you happen to actually like her voice, Joyce diDonato sings Dido with taste, technical perfection and tonal distinction. Her death scene is properly moving, without quite banishing memories of the role's famous exponents. Michael Spyres is easily the most compelling specialist we have in the French repertoire today, his radiant tenor not devoid of virile heft when Berlioz calls for it. As Opera Magazine put it after 'Damnation de Faust' at the 2017 Proms, "he has the world at his feet"; and here Aeneas's Act V scene, from 'Inutile regrets' to the departure, is the most stirring part of the entire set.
And yet, and yet ... it is clear that none of these three had previously sung the roles on stage. Unlike Hanna Hipp's Anna, for example, however good their singing these principals don't quarry much from the text or define precise characters, and in the love scene there is a distinct lack of sensual chemistry between the self-sufficient, reserved diDonato and the ardent Spyres.
So far, so so. Dull choral singing doesn't add to the set's appeal; but the central problem it seems to me is John Nelson's conducting, which manages to be both fussy (indulging in 'squeezebox' orchestral dynamics and random emphases which break up vocal lines) and opaque in overall effect. For example, Nelson conjures little perceptible change in mood, tempo or instrumental/vocal colour for that jaw-dropping musical sequence, from Quintet through Septet to the crowning love duet, which can make Act IV unforgettable. Though the momentum is seamless, he pushes the score along a fraction too mechanically, dissipating any lingering twilit magic.
In the final analysis, this set is pleasant on the ear, and sometimes moving; but it lacks cumulative intelligence, missing out on much of Berlioz's grandeur and that vital sense of musical danger. Ultimately, Nelson and his cast present 'Les Troyens' as a micro-managed soap opera, rather than the breathtaking, dangerously heroic one it needs to be.