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Meyerbeer: Overtures and Entr'actes from the French Operas

4.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, May 27, 2014
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Frequently Bought Together

  • Meyerbeer: Overtures and Entr'actes from the French Operas
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  • Meyerbeer: Ballet Music from the Operas - Les Huguenots; Robert le Diable; L'Etoile du Nord; Le Prophete; L'Africaine
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  • Massenet: Ballet Music - Bacchus; Heriodade; Thais; Le Cid
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Editorial Reviews

Giacomo Meyerbeer's eminence as an operatic composer was such that the works he wrote for the Paris Opéra between 1831 and 1865-Robert le Diable, Les Huguenots, L'Africaine and Le Prophète-were among the most spectacular and popular, well into the twentieth century. These overtures and orchestral pieces illustrate the power of Meyerbeer's writing, his sense of drama, his orchestral coloring, and his melodic beauty. L'Etoile du Nord and Dinorah, written for the Opéra Comique, are lighter in tone, but notable for their programmatic inventiveness.

Product Details

  • Orchestra: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Darrell Ang
  • Composer: Giacomo Meyerbeer
  • Audio CD (May 27, 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • Run Time: 72.00 minutes
  • ASIN: B00J587KB0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,938 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD
With the 150th anniversary of Meyerbeer's death on 2 May 2014, the appearance of his ballet music and now some of his overtures provides a suitable celebration. The ballet music is a delight in its variety and vivacity. The overtures are obviously a much more serious and dramatic genre, that give us a special flavour of the works to follow, distilling in poetic summary something of the character of the scenario and its concerns. This collection focuses on overtures and entr'actes from Meyerbeer's famous French operas. Some of these pieces used to feature on old 78 rpm records, and there was an anthology from the 1950s conducted by George Sebastian and the Orchestra of the Paris Opera. Here the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra ,under he dynamic direction of Darrell Ang, provide resplendent sound, great brilliance and panache in presenting these technically challenging works.
Meyerbeer was famous for pruning the extended operatic overture to a more succinct prelude. We see this with his two first grand operas . Each captures the poetic heart of the scenario: `Robert le Diable', with its doom-laden trombones, embodies all the eerie mystery, the `cold deathless' quality of the great drama of redemption the opera depicts; `Les Huguenots', with its solemn tones, gentle romantic reflection, and military call to arms, paints the various characters and moods of the Huguenot protagonists as will unfold in the opera.
On the other hand, we have some longer works in the more extended operatic tradition. These pertain particularly to the two opéras comiques written in the 1850s. `L'Etoile du Nord' has military overture suited to the exploits Peter the Great, while the famous melody of the providential Star of the North will be recognized as the lyrical contrasting central section.
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When I mentioned I was reviewing this new recording, I discovered just how low my colleagues held Meyerbeer's music. Robert Schumann didn't care much for it, but I think he -- and others -- miss the point. Giacomo Meyerbeer wasn't out to make pronouncements from God -- he wanted to write entertaining, successful operas. He achieved his goals, and the music in the collection demonstrates why.

Included are instrumental works from Meyerbeer's biggest hits -- "Robert le Diable," "Les Huguenots," and "L'Africaine" -- along with selections from "Dianorah and Le Prophete." Meyerbeer wrote almost exclusively for the stage, and his works are unfailingly catchy and tuneful.

Darrell Ang conducts the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with a certain amount of brio, never failing to bring out the drama of the music (without overplaying it). To me, this was a great collection of classical music for casual listening. I just need to be careful who I play it for.
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(Taken from www.musicweb-international.com; Review by Dan Morgan)

The 150th anniversary of Meyerbeer’s death got off to a cracking start with the Barcelona Symphony’s disc of ballet music from the operas (review). It’s been in and out of my player many times in recent weeks, and no wonder as it’s so well played and recorded. I particularly admire conductor Michał Nesterowicz for his elegant way with this music; it’s naturally phrased, rhythms are well sprung and the orchestra are clearly having fun. The programme is well chosen too, so the carousel of lovely tunes never loses its freshness and vitality.

Naxos have followed that up with this CD of overtures and entr’actes, courtesy of the Singapore-born maestro Darrell Ang and the New Zealand Symphony. Reading some of the more fulsome comments and articles about this young conductor confirms that the cult of celebrity is all-pervasive. At the very least it sets up expectations that will be hard to meet, but I suspect it’s more about selling youthful talent to a younger audience. That said, it’s entirely possible that the budding Karajan, Abbado or Bernstein might have been marketed in a similar fashion had they come to prominence in the age of social media.

Idle musings aside, how does Ang shape up on the podium? He starts with a thrilling account of the overture to Robert le Diable, the first of Meyerbeer’s Parisian grands opèras. As I was reminded in the Nesterowicz collection the devil really does have the best tunes; the mighty preamble to the work, with its rumble of bass, vaunting brass and chatter-silencing tuttis, is here recorded in floor-shaking, rafter-rattling sound.
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Overtures and Entr'actes are used by composers of operas to set the mood and prepare audiences for what is about to come. Meyerbeer was certainly one of the better composers in using orchestration of musical lines to accomplish this goal. From foreboding to jollity his adeptness in creating orchestral colour was widely respected. This CD contains selections from all six of his operas exemplifying the brilliance of his ability to musically depict what ever mood was best to enhance the movement of the action. The little known New Zealand Symphony Orchestra reveals it's competence and the youthful conductor Darrell Ang demonstrates his superb capabilities.
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