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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent bargain-priced issue, 1 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Meyerbeer: Robert le Diable (Audio CD)
This is a recording of a live concert performance that took place at the Teatro Verdi in Salerno, a city about 25 miles south of Naples, in March 2012. I was interested to hear this performance as it features two of the singers I saw in the same opera at the ROH in December 2012 - Bryan Hymel and Patrizia Ciofi. Operaphiles will know that the ROH production was plagued with casting problems with the ROH ditching the soprano they had lined up for the part of Isabelle and bringing in Ms Ciofi at the last minute. I was also interested to see how this Salerno performance compared to the live 1985 Paris performance featuring June Anderson, Samuel Ramey and Alain Vanzo which I had purchased as a primer prior to seeing the ROH production.

Ms. Ciofi, a well-known Gilda on the operatic stage, has a lighter, less lustrous voice than June Anderson, but she sings the part of Princess Isabelle quite beautifully; her account of Isabelle's great act 4 aria "Robert, toi que j'aime", a demanding piece, is fine-grained but totally assured. Alastair Miles is an excellent Bertram although Ramey in the Paris performance is darker and more devilish. But for me the star of the show is Carmen Giannattasio as Alice. Her rather lovely face happens to grace the cover of the February 2013 issue of Opera Now magazine with the description "A Bel Canto Beauty" and I can do no better than quote their article: "Her rich vocal timbre comes with daredevil agility. She can flip from vibrant , light coloratura to dark smouldering mezzo tones with an elegant, clean technique and powerfully intense phrasing." The one relative disappointment was the one I least expected - Bryan Hymel's Robert. At the ROH his tireless performance made a very favourable impression on me and I felt sure he would have the edge over the ageing Alain Vanzo. But on this recording his voice doesn't sound especially alluring with a tendency to sound constricted in the upper registers.

Given that Salerno's is a provincial opera house (albeit quite an impressive one, a slightly smaller version of the San Carlo up the road) I must say the orchestra and chorus acquit themselves admirably and Daniel Oren in the pit conducts a taut and exciting performance. The famous (or should that be infamous?) ballet of the ghostly nuns comes off splendidly. The recording is excellent without the stage noises you get with the Paris performance and with just the occasional muted cough from the audience and some faint clicks and creaks from the side of the performers. There is no libretto with this release but Brilliant have made it available on-line.

It should be noted that this performance - and I quote from the booklet - "has been trimmed of passages which are superfluous or lacking in dramatic relevance, so as to bring out all the elements of orchestral colour, the highly dramatic feel of the music, and the obvious loveliness of numerous passages in this opera."

Robert Le Diable is a splendid opera. Certainly in its gripping final act in which the forces of good and evil battle for possession of Robert's soul, Meyerbeer, both musically and dramatically, rises well above some of the lesser Bellini, Donizetti and early Verdi that opera houses are happy to throw at us, and I find the opera's current neglect (or perhaps "unfashionableness") quite puzzling. So it's good to have another recording that one can recommend. I picked up this set for less than a tenner including postage so I reckon it's a pretty good bargain. I wouldn't want to be without the Paris performance (despite the shortcomings of the recording) but if you're investigating this opera for the first time and want just the one set then I don't think you need look much further than this Brilliant release.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Feb 2013 12:35:58 GMT
Malx says:
Do you know if the libretto and translation is available anywhere on the net?
I would love to try this opera but without knowing what is going on it the experience would be somewhat reduced.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Feb 2013 17:58:04 GMT
The libretto is available at www.brilliantoperacollection.com but as far as I can see there is no translation. The booklet contains a pretty good synposis and I imagine a quick internet search will provide a more detailed one. Given that this release is recommendable and inexpensive, frankly you needn't hesitate.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Feb 2013 18:25:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 23 Feb 2013 10:04:01 GMT
Ralph Moore says:
Guy, try as I might with Meyerbeer I find most of his music empty, showy and bombastic - although I'd give "L'africana" house room, as per my review: L'africana

I'd be happy to eat my words so I'll try this, especially as it's new. I have to say that the critical reception to the music wasn't very enthusiastic; there is a coterie of diehard devotees but Meyerbeer really seems to be relegated today despite his success in his lifetime. I regularly get into trouble with them for this review, but I'm just giving my honest reaction:
Le Prophete

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Feb 2013 18:01:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 28 Feb 2013 10:35:06 GMT
I guess there are fashions in opera as in all other things. Faust, once the most popular of all operas, has fallen off its pedestal. La Gioconda, which I believe you told me elsewhere is a favourite of yours (as it is of mine) is now conspicuous by its absence in European opera houses (even Verona can't be bothered.) Rienzi, once Wagner's most popular opera, now rarely gets an outing even in Germany. Meyerbeer it would seem has gone the same way. Unfortunately the recent ROH staging of Robert Le Diable did not take the work seriously (as was the case with their last miserable attempt at Les Huguenots) and I think this tended to undermine the critical reception of the opera's musical values and did a great disservice to any chance of reviving interest in the composer. Your perception of Meyerbeer as being empty, showy and bombastic has an element of truth in it but pageantry was an essential part of the 19th century grand opera experience and is perhaps out of keeping with the modern zeitgeist. Nowadays we can get our fix of spectacular imagery from the cinema or the TV. Certainly at his best, as in the final act of Robert Le Diable, Meyerbeer achieved greatness.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2013 09:38:42 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 3 Apr 2013 12:46:45 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2013 10:54:59 BDT
Hi Ralph

Your comment is attached to my review but I assume we're talking about the tirades of Envoi et al attached to your own. Tua culpa es, Ralph. Leaving a negative review of Meyerbeer is a bit like exposing the nuclear button and then sticking a big label beneath it DO NOT PRESS. Actually, I've got a pretty thick skin and have no objection if the exchanges remain. I think Amazon readers are entitled to a little innocent entertainment. But thank you for checking. Best regards. Guy.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2013 20:01:14 BDT
Sine Nomine says:
Integrity, Ralph - Mr. Mannering has it!

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Apr 2013 23:22:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Apr 2013 23:23:21 BDT
Ralph Moore says:
And thus peace is restored - and Nanny can retire with her cocoa.
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