Magazine article Gramophone

Kreutzer's Opera Revived, Recorded and Contextualised

Magazine article Gramophone

Kreutzer's Opera Revived, Recorded and Contextualised

Article excerpt

Kreutzer  La mort d'Abel (1825 version)  Katia Velletaz sop       Meala Yumiko Tanimura sop      Tirsa Jennifer Borghi mez      Eve Sebastian Droy ten       Abel Jean-Sebastien Bou bar   Cain Pierre-Yves Pruvot bar   Adam Alain Buet bass          Anamalech 

NamurChamber Choir; Les Agremens/Guy Van Waas

Ediciones Singulares (F) (2) ES1008 (91' * DDD * T/t)

The dedicatee of Beethoven's violin sonata (Op 47), the French virtuoso Rodolphe Kreutzer (1766-1831) seems not to have ever played it in public. He worked at the French court under the patronage of Marie Antoinette in the mid-1780s; after the Revolution he wrote a series of operas for Paris, where he became first professor of violin at the Conservatoire inaugurated in 1795. His biblical tragedie lyrique La mort d'Abel, set to a libretto by Hoffman, was performed at the Paris Opera in 1810; permission for its production was begrudgingly given by Napoleon, who disapproved of sacred subject matter in the theatre, and the opera was not well received: critics admired Kreutzer's music rather more warmly than Hoffman's libretto but vociferously complained about the infernal monotony of Act 2. For a revival in 1825, Act 2was removed; this occasion sent the wildly enthusiastic Berlioz into hyperemotional overdrive in a letter to Kreutzer: 'O genius! Isuccumb! Idie! Tears choke me!'

It is unlikely modern listeners will fully share the violence of Berlioz's approval but the fine performance of Guy van Waas and Les Agremens reveals music of imaginative colours and profuse sentimentality that sometimes sounds like a stepping-stone between Haydn's Creation and Berlioz's Damnation of Faust. The Overture and Adam's opening scene evoke sunrise and the tormented angst of the world's first dysfunctional family leads to a succession of pleasant arias. Meala conveys her anxiety about Cain's dark moods in a delightful aria that recalls Gretry ('J'attendais que l'aurore', sung compassionately by Katia Velletaz), whereas Cain's arrival introduces a bitter musical atmosphere conveying his brooding hatred of his family ('Quoi! …

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