Meyerbeer: Robert le diable
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A grand opera that dominated the stages of Europe for most of the 19th century, Robert le diable is a masterpiece. Director Laurent Pelly breathes new life into Giacomo Meyerbeer's great spectacle and audaciously entertaining moral fable, in this colourful new staging for The Royal Opera. The wonderful score includes brilliant arias, dramatic ensembles, rousing choruses and a ballet of ghostly nuns, and with the wavering hero of the title sung by Bryan Hymel, acclaimed for his role as Énée in Les Troyens for The Royal Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, this is an unmissable experience.Press Reviews
"‘‘…some amazing singing. Bryan Hymel as Robert and Patrizia Ciofi as his beloved Isabelle tackle their immense roles with tremendous panache and stamina." (The Guardian)
" ... the production is worth seeing for anyone interested in the history of opera and it may well be another 120 years before Covent Garden stages it again." (The Washington Times)
"... the opportunity to see this particular Meyerbeer creation, last given at Covent Garden in 1890, should not be missed bv lovers of the composer's music." (International Record Review)Cast
Bryan Hymel (Robert)
Patrizia Ciofi (Isabelle )
John Relyea (Bertram)
Marina Poplavskaya (Alice)
Nicolas Courjal (Alberti)
David Butt Philip (Master of Ceremonies)
Royal Opera Chorus; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House; Daniel Oren
Company: The Royal Opera
Stage Director: Laurent Pelly
Catalogue Number: OA1106D
Date of Performance: 2012
Running Time: 211 minutes
Sound: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTS
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Anamorphic
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, JP, KR
Label: Opus Arte
"Tenor Bryan Hymel...is a pillar of strength in a role studded with high notes..." --Opera News, December 2013
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Bryan Hymel as the exiled Duke of Normandy does a fine job as the son of an evil father and who is finally "saved by pure love" and repents his evil ways. He sings and acts well in a complex and demanding part.
There is not much in the way of female roles here. Alice the faithful servant of the Duke is played by Marina Poplavskaya. She is beautiful, acts well as the dutiful servant and sings superbly. She is in one great recording after another.
The Isabelle of Sicily that is betrothed to Robert is played by Patricia Ciofi. She has had a long career and she wobbled a bit in the high register. But she acted her part well with just a touch of humor here and there and was a good foil for the Robert of Hymel. I know her from some lack-luster recordings of some lack-luster Donizetti operas.
A big cheer for the orchestra and chorus of ROH conducted by Daniel Oren and also a cheer for the eerie ladies in the Dead Nuns ballet. Great job! I loved the story-book sets and props and particularly the cardboard monster that comes out at the end to carry off demon Bertram to his end.
Do I think there will be a revival of interest in Meyerbeer operas? Meyerbeer wrote these long Grand Operas as serious works of art to an audience that believed deeply in religeous subjects and moral and religeous conflicts. These conflicts are the subjects of his operas: Robert le Diable with its morality of life choices, Les Huguenots with the conflict of old faith and new faith, Le Prophete with its conflicts within the faith in rebellion by a leader and L'Africain where the christian faith is in conflict with a native faith.
He himself was born into a wealthy jewish family in Berlin as Jakob Liebmann Meyer Beer (he later combined his his middle name and lastt name). Even though his fame rests on his Christian conflict operas he did not convert to any other religious doctrine. In the mid and late 1800s the audience was generally serious about maters of faith and believed in demons, angels, saints and evil spirits. His operas on these subjects were thus very popular with this audience as was Gounod's Faust among others. Sorry, in this day of science, secular society and enlightenment in western culture the audience for serious faith-based, long winded epic operas just isn't there. What we do find entertaining is to do what Pelly has done for Robert Le Diable and Soltesz did with the Hugenotten and that is to mildly high camp them but keeping some spirit alive and allowing us to hear some of the very beautiful music of Meyerbeer.
Musically, the opera is exquisite. Since its premiere in 1831 the opera was successful and well received. The orchestration is dramatic and conductor Daniel Oren was able to bring all the necessary colors out of the brilliant ROH orchestra. The singing couldn't go wrong with tenor Bryan Hymel. It seems that everything he sings is sung beautifully and to perfection. Although there were 2 notes that sounded slightly tight, one must consider that he is on stage for most of the 211 minutes (opera had cuts from its original version) of the opera. He is no doubt a tenor of magnificent talent and a voice of gold. The rest of the principals was equally strong. The production scores high with John Relyea as Bertram (who shows his gifts in sustained very low notes); the sweet Alice of Marina Poplavskaya; and the Isabelle of soprano Patrizia Ciofi, who displays a wide range of colors and beautiful high pianissimi all the way to her aria close to the end of the opera.
Of course everything is completed with the chorus in great form and the amazing ROH ballet.
One more thing that struck me as absolutely remarkable is that, with the possible exception of Maria Poplaskaya, two Americans - Bryan Hymel and John Relya - and one Italian - Patrizia Ciofi - sang in French with practically no trace of an accent. I do speak French and know of what I speak.
The opera is long - roughly four hours - but it goes by so fast and I almost found that I would have loved to start from the beginning once more despite it length.