Monday, 12 December 2011

Véronique Gens - Héroïnes romantiques

Véronique Gens is singing Massanet, Gounod and Reynaldo Hahn on Monday 12th at the Wigmore Hall. Don't miss this, for Gens is divine in this repertoire (and nearly everything else). She is one of the great things to happen to French repertoire in decades - part of a whole renaissance in French music. I'll write about the Wigmore Hall concert later. But in the meantime, please listen to the Arte-7 broadcast of a concert she gave on 10th November at the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice. "Tragédiennes : Héroïnes romantiques". Christophe Rousset conducts LesTalens Lyriques.

First heroine is Ina, daughter of the King of Scotland in Etienne Méhul's 1799 drama Ariodant. She's on trial for illicit sex. Gens makes every word ring out true and clear, so you know, even if you don't understand French, that the accusations can't be true. Rousset follows this tour de force with the overture from Méhul's Stratonice, extending the mood. Gluck, Gosset, Salieri, Kreutzer, Cherubini,  and then "Ah, mon fils" from Meyerbeer's Le prophète. What range ! Then Didon's tragic lament from Berlioz Les Troyennes, "Ah! Ah! Je vais mourir!". Gens's style is so lucid that her voice cuts right through the image of Berlioz as molasses. Then "Toi qui sus le néant" from Verdi’s Don Carlos, better known in Italian, of course, but no less dramatic in French.

Véronique Gens's range is huge but completely unforced, so it flows naturally even though she sings such a variety of extreme personalities.  There is a new CD in her series of grand Tragédiennes with Rousset and Les Talens Lyriques from Virgin Classics. (photo : Alexandre Weinberger, Virgin Classics). Most of the pieces in this concert can be found on Volume 3 in the series.

However, enjoy the Arte TV film, because it's made in the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice, the Centre de Musique Romantique Française. The building is medieval, and features in John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice. It's been restored in ornate luxury, carvings on the walls, mosaics on the floors. The huge lanterns that light the music salon are striking. Perhaps the composers whose music Gens sings would have known the building and recognize the style.

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