Camille Saint-Saens – Helene; Nuit persane – Orchestra Victoria, Guillaume Tourniaire (2008)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:31:31 minutes | 1,61 GB | Genre: Classical
Official Digital Download – Source: melbarecordings.com.au | Digital Booklet | © Melba Recordings
Recorded: Melbourne Town Hall, 2007
Historic world-premiere recordings of two Saint-Saëns lost masterpieces, recently rediscovered, herald Melba Recordings’ major release schedule this autumn. Hélène is a one hour, one act poème lyrique written for Dame Nellie Melba in 1904, it features the thrilling international tenor based in Europe, Steve Davislim.
Saint-Saëns depicts one of history’s greatest love affairs in music that is characterised by soaring lyricism and shot through with sumptuous melodies. Hélène is coupled with another world premiere recording, the orchestral version of Saint-Saëns’ hypnotic cycle for tenor, alto, chorus, narrator and orchestra, Nuit Persane – a memorable account showcasing Steve Davislim and alto Zan McKendree-Wright. Both works exemplify Saint-Saëns at his best.
The album marks the debut on Melba Recordings of Guillaume Tourniaire, one of the most exhilarating conductors of our time. Tourniaire is Artistic Director of the State Opera, Prague.
2 disc set within luxury 100-page accompanying book, which includes essays, illustrations and translations, with full libretto and song texts in French and English. The book also contains articles by Bettany Hughes, noted Helen of Troy specialist, and Professor Hugh McDonald, distinguished Berlioz biographer and musicologist.
Hélène is Saint-Saëns’s one-act opera, long neglected, on the Helen of Troy story, written to his own libretto with reigning diva Nellie Melba specifically in mind. She gave the 1904 premiere in Monte Carlo and it is apt this first recording appears on the Australian Melba label. It is a neatly constructed work with an introduction and seven scenes. Helen has a long, demanding solo early on, resisting the approaches of Venus, the goddess of love, and her chorus as well as Paris, claiming to be faithful to her husband Menelaus. But of course she’s passionately in love with her Trojan suitor and the tale is played out in a series of duets, between Paris and Helen and each with Pallas (Athene), sent by Menelaus amid thunder and lightning to counter the arguments of Venus. Pallas warns of the destruction of Troy if Helen continues. The climactic sixth scene is a full-scale love duet, with Helen given another long solo passage. The final brief scene visualises Paris and Helen on board ship bound for Troy with the voices of the lovers heard atmospherically from afar. Loud chords bring an emphatic close.
Though the melodies are not the most memorable Saint-Saëns wrote (think of Samson et Dalila) they flow easily and sweetly and Guillaume Tourniaire is a sympathetic conductor. Though Rosamund Illing is hardly a Melba, her bright clear voice is apt, and the only reservation is that Venus and Pallas are a little too alike, equally bright and clear. The star performance comes from tenor Steve Davislim, exploiting his wonderfully true and well focused voice over a wide tonal range.
Davislim is again the star in the earlier and even less well known song-cycle Nuit persane, on the second disc of this beautifully packaged issue, with mezzo Zan McKendree-Wright this time allowed to use her rich chest register. Each of the four sections is introduced by a narrator, leading to nicely balanced sequences of songs with oriental flavours. With excellent sound, recorded in Melbourne Town Hall, this is a most valuable issue. – Gramophone
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)
1-2 Introduction and Scѐne Premiѐre 4:01
3-5 Scѐne Deuxiѐme and Troisiѐme and Quatriѐme 30:27
6 Scѐne Cinquiѐme 11:55
7-8 Scѐne Sixiѐme and Septiѐme 14:41
Premiѐre Partie (La solitaire)
1 Prѐlude 2:08
2 La brise 1:55
3 La solitaire 2:44
4 La fuite 2:08
Deuxiѐme Partie (La vallѐe de l’union)
5-6 Prѐlude and Au cimetiѐre 7:07
7 Les cygnes 4:35
Troisiѐme Partie (Fleurs de sang)
8 Prѐlude 0:47
9 Sabre en main 2:54
Quatriѐme Partie (Songe d’opium)
10-11 Prѐlude and Tournoiement 7:09
Rosamund Illing – Soprano
Steve Davislim – Tenor
Guillaume Tourniaire – Conductor