Lebrecht Weekly: Berlioz: Les Troyens (Erato)

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Berlioz: Les Troyens (Erato)

John Nelson, Joyce DiDonato, Michael Spyres, Marie-Nicole Lemieux

Almost every new release I sampled this week should never have been made. One album after another lacked conviction, coherence and, sometimes, pulse. These are records where label and artist ask one another what to do next without either side asking aloud whether this project is absolutely necessary.

None of which can be said about the present release. The need for a new-gen recording of Berlioz’s epic opera is pressing, given that the last two trustworthy attempts, by the late Sir Colin Davis, are wearing thin. Erato’s no-holds-barred team is conducted by the Berlioz specialist John Nelson and features Joyce DiDonato and Michael Spyres as Dido and Aeneas, with Marie-Nicole Lemieux as Cassandra. The orchestra and choruses of Strasbourg are full-on in quite the most thrilling way. When they hit you with a battle cry, you stay hit.

Taken from two live performances and a patch session, the immediacy is irresistible and the authenticity unimpeachable. I won’t give you chapter and verse on a five-act opera lasting almost as many hours, but every live Troyens that I have seen loses pressure in the second or third act. Not this one. More than any individual artist in the team it is the collective full-onness of this event that will stay with me for a long time to come. It has to be the go-to Troyens for the next decade.

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Normand Lebrecht

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About Author

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific writer on music and cultural affairs. His blog, Slipped Disc, is one of the most popular sites for cultural news. He presents The Lebrecht Interview on BBC Radio 3 and is a contributor to several publications, including the Wall Street Journal and The Standpoint. Visit every Friday for his weekly CD review // Norman Lebrecht est un rédacteur prolifique couvrant les événements musicaux et Slipped Disc, est un des plus populaires sites de nouvelles culturelles. Il anime The Lebrecht Interview sur la BBC Radio 3 et collabore à plusieurs publications, dont The Wall Street Journal et The Standpoint. Vous pouvez lire ses critiques de disques chaque vendredi.

1 Comment

  1. I was in Strasbourg for the event, attending both performances. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The quality of the music-making was superb but, even more, the evident excitement of all the performers, crew and audience was incredible. Maestro Nelson obviously had the score “in his bones” and we all benefited from that fact. We knew that if was an historic event, and I felt when it was over that this would be the definitive recording of Les Troyens. I’m glad that the immediate reaction of reviewers confirms that feeling.

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