Veronique Gens is generally considered among the most prominent sopranos on the opera and recital stages in the 21st century. She became associated with Baroque repertory early in her career, but soon branched out into the operas of Mozart and later into works by Berlioz, Fauré, Debussy, and Poulenc. Born into a family with largely medical backgrounds (her father was a prominent doctor), she began singing in a choir as a child but, choosing to study English, planned to become an interpreter. In her teens, however, she shifted her focus to music and went on to win first prize for early music at the Paris Conservatory. Conductor William Christie introduced her to Baroque repertory, and in 1986 she scored her first success with him when she appeared with Les Arts Florissants under his direction. Her 1994 portrayal of the Countess in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro received wide acclaim and catapulted her to international stardom. By this time, too, her recordings of The Fairy-Queen and Rameau's Castor et Pollux, made several years earlier, had also garnered positive notice. Easily among her most notable recordings was the René Jacobs-led 1999 release of Così fan tutte on Harmonia Mundi. In 2001 Virgin Classics released her rendition of the Berlioz song cycle Les nuits d'été, with the Orchestre de l'Opéra national de Lyon led by Louis Langrée. In 2004, she appeared in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Gens has personally stated a preference for Mozart and, besides singing the Countess and Fiordiligi, has sung Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) and Vitellia (La Clemenza di Tito). She considers Mozart the perfect bridge for her other favorites, Baroque repertory and French music from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Gens has sung with some of the most important European conductors throughout her career, including Claudio Abbado, Philippe Herreweghe, Marc Minkowski, and Jean-Claude Malgoire. Besides Harmonia Mundi and Virgin Classics, Gens has recorded for L'Oiseau-lyre, Erato, and Archiv. In 2006, Gens made the first of her Tragediennes solo recordings, with a third volume released in 2011. Gens has continued to record Baroque repertoire in the 2010s, taking the leading role in a recording of Rameau's "ballet heroïque" Les fêtes de Polymnie in 2015. Much of her output during this period, however, has consisted of weightier French roles of the 19th century, including works by Berlioz, Gounod, and Saint-Saëns. Not content with big-production starring roles, Gens made several recordings of rare operas for the Ediciones Singulares label. In 2015 she made her first recording for the Alpha label: Néère was a collection of French art songs about which AllMusic.com raved, "Get hold of it without delay; it's gorgeous." Gens released Visions, a collection of ambitious and often obscure French arias and cantatas on a shifting border between sacred and profane that only she could have navigated, in 2017. The French government has conferred upon Gens the honors of Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and Chevalier of Arts and Letters. ~ Robert Cummings, James Manheim
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Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released June 5, 2012 | Ondine
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - 4 étoiles Classica - Hi-Res Audio - La Clef du mois RESMUSICA
Vocal Music (Secular and Sacred) - Released May 31, 2017 | Alpha
Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
After an album of French songs (Néère) that earned her a "Gramophone Award" in 2016, Véronique Gens presents her new recital, this time with orchestra, which gives her an opportunity to display the maturity of her ‘Falcon’ soprano, the central tessitura typical of French Romantic opera, which takes its name from Cornélie Falcon, who created the works of Meyerbeer and Halévy staged in the 1830s. She pays tribute here to a number of composers whose unknown operas she was the first to reveal in projects mounted by the Palazzetto Bru Zane, including David, Godard, Saint-Saëns and Halévy. The programme selects arias from all the genres in vogue in the Romantic era: opera (Saint-Saëns, Halévy, Godard, Février), opéra-comique (David), oratorio (Franck, Massenet) and the cantata for the Prix de Rome (Bizet, Bruneau). A nod to Wagner and his Tannhäuser – in its French translation of the 1860s – completes this programme conducted by a longstanding colleague of the soprano, one of the leading specialists in French music, Hervé Niquet. © Alpha Classics
Classical - Released May 8, 2006 | Warner Classics
The tragic operas of the French Baroque can be rough going for the new listener, whose eyes may glaze over when hearing about rules of French prosody, classical models, and Lully's dominance of the scene. But this single-disc recital solves any problems you may have had in encountering operatic music from Lully to Gluck. Credit soprano Véronique Gens, who has often sung lighter material and now is turning to the serious works of Rameau and his era at just the right time. Her voice is impressively versatile, with a muscular medium-wave vibrato that can easily drop off into a stage whisper or rise into anger. Credit conductor Christophe Rousset and his group Les Talens Lyriques, with their on-the-ball, sensitive accompaniment and unique catgut-scraping string sound. Credit booklet writer Jean Duron for a quick, painless introduction to the 100-year history of how French opera composers, working in the centralized musical system of the French monarchy, responded to the musical world as it changed around them. Credit the engineers from Virgin Classics, who have made the Church of Notre Dame-du-Liban in Paris into something resembling a close-up, row-five theatrical experience, and caught the powerful sense of immediacy and communication in Gens' singing. And credit whoever devised the program, which offers good-sized chunks of music from various operas, complete with overtures and other instrumental interludes, instead of a sequence of disconnected arias and random sonatas linked to the main program only by chronology. This album will earn praise from those who follow Gens closely, and for the general listener looking to hear some French Baroque opera arias it's a godsend -- the tragic heroine is a central figure of the era, and Gens and company have brought her fully to life.
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