20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Pure musical pleasure...,
This review is from: Auber: Le Domino noir (Audio CD)
This might not be the most profound music ever written but few recordings give as much sheer, unadulterated pleasure as this one. Even if Auber doesn't explore any great depths of feeling, he certainly manages to convey one emotion better than most other composers: pure joy. This set is a delight from beginning to end. Daniel-Francois-Esprit Auber is probably most famous in the history books for "La Muette de Portici" (or "Masaniello" as it is sometimes called), which played an important role in the development of French 'grand opera' (and, incidentally, in the creation of Belgium - inspired by the patriotic arias in a production of this opera in Brussels in 1830, discontented local students took to the streets and rioted against the Dutch authorities, an act which was soon to culminate in the country's independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So perhaps Auber was responsible for the most influential 'political' music ever written!). But Auber is probably at his best in his lighter 'operas comiques', which were wildly successful with Parisian audiences - "Le Domino Noir" notched up 1209 performances between its premiere in 1837 and 1909. The style is perhaps most reminiscent of Rossini, but it has a more dancelike, 'bouncy' feel to it, with infectious, toetapping rhythms driving the music irresistibly along, except in the more lyrical love music. It was Rossini himself who described Auber's style as 'petite musique d'un grand musicien' ('minor music by a major composer'), since Auber was no amateur but a highly educated musician who chose to exercise his talents on lightweight music. He would often give his operas 'local colour': in 'Le Cheval de Bronze' it was Chinese music, in 'Les Diamants de la Couronne', Portuguese. Here there is a distinct Spanish flavour, complete with castanets in the heroine's show-stopping "Aragonaise". Auber also differentiated the music of each act - the first, a masked ball, is predominantly made up of dance music, including a bolero; the second act is a late night party with rousing drinking songs and choruses; finally, in the third act, set in a convent, there is even a 'religious' feeling to some of the music, with organ accompaniment.
It's impossible to imagine a livelier, more sympathetic performance of this opera than this recording. The singers are uniformly excellent, even if they are not all well-known names. Just the right amount of Scribe's extensive dialogue has been left in between the musical numbers and it is sparkingly performed (and as an added bonus, a few recitatives have been inserted, composed by Tchaikovsky especially for a late nineteenth century Russian production). The Bonynge-Jo team went on to record another 'opera comique', Adam's "Le Toreador", which is only slightly less successful than "Le Domino Noir". They should definitely follow it up with further examples from this genre: more Auber would be great, or how about Herold's "Zampa", famous for its overture, but yet to be treated to a complete recording? (Brys)