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Classical - Released October 22, 2021 | Bru Zane

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First performed in Brussels in 1872, La Fille de Madame Angot, a comic opera by Charles Lecocq, enjoyed a triumphant reception for its first performances, and remained in the repertoire of provincial theatres in France for a long time, and also in Germany, where it became very popular. This type of work has encountered two recurrent problems in France, where it was most often entrusted to second-rate singers, who put on routine productions that made use of incomplete, not to say mediocre librettos.The emergence of the Palazzetto Bru Zane foundation, which has been working on French music of the great 19th century (1780-1920) since 2009, has completely reshuffled the deck, by restoring nobility to a repertoire that has been forgotten or is often treated as a poor relation. New versions are recorded by Bru Zane on the basis of his own editorial work which goes back to the sources, performed by the best opera artists of the day, as has always been the way in German-speaking countries.This new recording of La Fille de Madame Angot, made in February 2021 in the largest hall in the Seine Musicale in Paris, brings together the best of today's French singers with, in the leading roles, Anne-Catherine Gillet, Véronique Gens, Mathias Vidal, Artavadz Sargsyan and Matthieu Lécroart. The Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, conducted by Sébastien Rouland, is dazzling. The time had come for a release of this comic opera without any cuts and in the best possible conditions, with a clear and superbly defined sound recording. On top of all this auditory pleasure, we can also enjoy reading the critical notes, which are, as ever, serious and well-put-together. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released August 27, 2021 | Bru Zane

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That globetrotting composer Camille Saint-Saëns wrote La Princesse jaune in 1872, exemplifying the current craze for all things Japanese. Kornélis, played by the tenor Mathias Vidal, dreams only of the Land of the Rising Sun. Under the influence of a hallucinogenic potion, he becomes infatuated with Ming, a fantasy princess. His cousin Léna – the soprano Judith van Wanroij – despairs of this passion and does not dare to confess her own feelings to Kornélis, who eventually comes to his senses. The running time of this opera enables us to offer a coupling in the shape of a previously unrecorded version of Saint-Saëns’s six Mélodies persanes, thus extending the guiding thread of a yearning for exotic horizons in another direction. Leo Hussain conducts the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in both works. © Bru Zane
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Classical - Released June 11, 2021 | Bru Zane

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André Messager's deliciously French art offers the perfect combination of refined music and frivolous – but never facile – operetta. This recording was a product of the constraints of the 2020 pandemic. Musicians and producers were forced to downgrade many projects in order to comply with the health guidance which was then in force. With its modest instrumental requirements, its smattering of soloists and its lack of a choir, the operetta Passionnément, which enjoyed a triumphal opening in a cheery inter-war Paris in 1926, was perfect for these challenging conditions.In France, operetta has often suffered from mediocre vocal talent. All the more reason, then, to enjoy this high-quality production, with excellent vocalists, starting with Australian soprano Nicole Car as Julia, a crafty chambermaid who is dreaming of a bourgeois life with an American millionaire, and who ends up hitting the bottle at the height of Prohibition. The libretto by Hervé Hennequin and Albert Willemetz is full of salacious allusions only scantily concealed by candid lyrics.This is the first time ever that Passionnément has been committed to disc. This release was a co-production between the Munich Radio and Palazzetto Bru Zane. This full, uncut version was directed by Stefan Blunier, who offers a wonderful rendering of André Messager's melodic talents, bringing a sense of joy and subtlety to every moment. The flawless cast brings together Véronique Gens as Ketty, the wife abandoned by her wealthy American husband, played by Eric Huchet. Etienne Dupuis, Chantal Santon Jeffery and Armando Noguera round out an excellently-put-together cast, which does full justice to this piece of classic workmanship. A superb document of the atmosphere of the 1920s. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released February 12, 2021 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released October 23, 2020 | Bru Zane

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Reynaldo Hahn's opera L'île du rêve bears the date 1898 but was begun considerably earlier when the teenage composer was a student of Massenet at the Paris Conservatory. It was based on an 1880 autobiographical novel by Pierre Loti, detailing the author's liaison with a 15-year-old Polynesian girl; the novel was also a partial source for Léo Delibes' Lakmé. The novel was a prime document of French colonialism, but in the hands of Hahn and librettists André Alexandre and Georges Hartmann, it is toned down into a lightly exotic short opera. There is a comic Chinese rival suitor, but L'île du rêve is not an operetta, although it occasionally leans in that direction. It is filled with strong romantic melodies and a natural way of setting speech in song that brings to mind Puccini more than any French composer, although it is not clear how much Puccini Hahn had heard. His manner here will be familiar to anyone who treasures Hahn's mélodies. Historical performance specialist Hervé Niquet leads the Münchner Rundfunkorchester and his Choeur du Concert Spirituel in a strong performance that catches the liveliness of the score. His work is enhanced by a cast of singers, led by Hélène Guilmette as the young Princess Mahénu and Cyrille Dubois as Loti, who respect the modest dimensions of the score. L'île du rêve here receives its world premiere recording, and it has been performed live less than a dozen times and only in one production since the 1940s. It is certainly of interest to anyone drawn by French opera and its context, but the unexpected thing is that it stands easily on its own merits. © TiVo
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Classical - Released August 28, 2020 | Bru Zane

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Le Timbre d'Argent (The Silver Bell), begun in 1864, was Camille Saint-Saëns' very first opera. All but forgotten, it was last staged in 1914, before the 2017 Paris production on which this 2020 release is based. The forces here, including the specialist ensemble Les Siècles, the fine choir Accentus, and conductor François-Xavier Roth make a strong case for the opera's revival. Saint-Saëns obviously valued the work, revising it as late as 1913, due in part to the Franco-Prussian War; it is this last version that is heard presently. The work was termed a drame lyrique or opéra fantastique rather than an opéra comique, but it is an action-packed work that veers between romantic fun and fantasy elements that it shares, along with a pair of librettists, with Offenbach's Les contes d'Hoffman of 15 years later. (Goethe's Faust is another inspiration: the titular silver bell brings wealth but kills someone close to the user.) The fantasy elements are prominent in the substantial choral sections, giving the magical choir Accentus much to do. There is a great deal of sheer, sparkling Mozartian melody as well. Roth and a lively cast led by tenor Edgaras Montvidas as the obsessed, Faust-like artist keeps things moving along. Saint-Saëns is a conductor whose star seems to be on the rise, and admirers of his music are sure to want this. The surprise, however, is that anyone can enjoy it. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 10, 2020 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released February 14, 2020 | Bru Zane

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The sheer scope of Jacques Offenbach’s output is striking, encompassing about 100 operettas and comic operas, as well as various other works. Maître Péronilla was composed in 1878, just three years before Offenbach’s death, and with new trends of comic opera in the air. Yet he finished five more before the end, and there is absolutely no flagging of inspiration evident; the opera is full of tunes that will leave the listener humming. Maître Péronilla, which apparently receives its world recorded premiere here, was termed an opera bouffe; the generic designations for Offenbach’s works had fuzzy boundaries, but this is a bit more expansive than many of the works called operettas, with three acts, plenty of irresistible choruses, and a large cast conveying a variety of musical styles. The Spanish-flavored, unwanted-marriage-based plot serves as a vehicle for this parade of styles, and the action is expertly handled, propelling the action forward even as the performers here take all the dialogue passages. Consider the Act II Entr’acte, which will have listeners on the edge of their seats, wanting the story to resume. This live recording from 2019 was a production of the Bru Zane Center, a specialist group that seeks out neglected French works, but it has some star power, with soprano Véronique Gens as the bride-to-be’s unmarried older sister, and the Orchestre National de France kept nicely in check by conductor Markus Poschner. The cast works well as an ensemble; there are no weak voices, and the pacing is superb. This is, in short, a real find, and one that will leave the listener amazed anew at Offenbach’s inexhaustible melodic invention. Even Arthur Sullivan tended to run out of ideas after a while, and he only wrote 14 operettas. © TiVo
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Classical - Released November 8, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released October 25, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released August 23, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released July 26, 2019 | Bru Zane

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From Tasso to Jean Cocteau, Renaud and Armide are one of those legendary couples whose story has enchanted, or horrified, Western thought. In Jerusalem Delivered, Torquato Tasso tells of the adventures of Renaud, King of France in the days of the Crusades with whom the Muslim magician Armide falls in love. The latter tries in vain to hold Renaud back by means of enchantments and by her various charms. This story inspired many painters and musicians: Lully, Gluck, Handel, Vivaldi, Jomelli, Haydn, Rossini, Dvořák and the Florentine Antonio Sacchini. Becoming queen Marie Antoinette's favourite musician, Sacchini wrote several operas for the court, including this Renaud, based on a libretto by Abbé Pellegrin inspired by that of Quinault. It is thanks to Christophe Rousset and the Bru Zane Foundation that today we can savour the resurrection of this forgotten work. Marie Kalinine shines particularly brightly here, as she skilfully portrays the rages and excesses of a particularly dramatic role. She is accompanied by a plethora of small and very well-executed roles that contribute to the excellence of this historical and musical excavation. © François Hudry/Qobuz
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Classical - Released July 26, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released July 26, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released June 14, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Recordings of Offenbach's 1868 operetta La Périchole, here performed in an 1873 revision, have been rather uncommon. True, it doesn't contain any of the big Offenbach hits, and its Peruvian setting, with a variety of Spanish dances and chinoiserie standing in for whatever music might have been heard in colonial Peru, seems increasingly preposterous as time goes on. However, verisimilitude has never been a requirement in operetta, and this story of the titular street singer (who was an actual historical individual) pursued by a sleazy colonial administrator hits a lot of the bases. Anglophone listeners will note that Arthur Sullivan surely knew this music inside and out, and replicated the combination of limpid songs for the heroine and quite a few sharp narrative choruses. This production, recorded live in 2018 at the Festival Radio France Occitanie in Montpellier, is nothing fancy, but that is its charm. La Périchole is nicely sung by a mezzo-soprano with the delightful name of Aude Extrémo, who resists the temptation to ham it up (sample her drunk scene, "Ah, quel diner je viens de faire") and inhabits the role well. The large cast is consistent, and conductor Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre, far from their Baroque origins, keep things moving in a lively way. One gets the sense that Offenbach would have been fully satisfied, and the recording is a must for any operetta fan. © TiVo
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Classical - Released March 22, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released January 11, 2019 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released September 14, 2018 | Bru Zane

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Classical - Released May 11, 2018 | Bru Zane

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A French composer of many grand operas of the mid-19th century, Fromental Halévy received the greatest acclaim for La Juive (1835), and while his works of the 1830s and 1840s enjoyed varying levels of popularity, he could also count La Reine de Chypre (1841) as a major success. This five-act opera received high praise from Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner, and its effectiveness as entertainment in the grand style is apparent. Halévy's music today seems tuneful and competently scored, though hardly the masterpiece it was hailed at the time. Indeed, after the composer's death in 1862, La Reine de Chypre faded from the repertoire. This revival production by Hervé Niquet and the Orchestre de chambre de Paris re-creates the opera's vibrant atmosphere, and as much as this splendid recording can convey its drama and color through sound, the spectacle is easy to imagine. A strong cast is featured, including Véronique Gens as Caterina Cornaro, the Queen of Cyprus; Cyrille Dubois as Gérard de Coucy, a French chevalier; Étienne Dupuis as Jacques de Lusignan, the King; and Éric Huchet as Mocenigo, in the leading roles. As always, Niquet presents the music in exquisite period style, and the sound of the performance, recorded at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, seems to be in keeping with Romantic era practices at the Paris Opéra. Recommended for fans of French opera and the indefatigable Niquet. © TiVo
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Classical - Released January 12, 2018 | Bru Zane

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