Magazine article Gramophone

Gounod: La Colombe

Magazine article Gramophone

Gounod: La Colombe

Article excerpt

Gounod La colombe Erin Morley sop                     Sylvie Javier Camareria ten                Horace Michele Losier mez                  Mazet Laurent Naouri bass-bar             Maitre Jean Halle Orchestra / Sir Mark Elder 

Opera Rara [F] (2) ORC53 (80' * DDD * S/T/t)

You come at Gounod's La colombe ('The Dove') thinking that the bird of the title will turn out to be the MacGuffin, and that the plot will really revolve around something less featherweight. It doesn't, perhaps because Gounod's 1860 operacomique was composed as filler for well-heeled Baden-Baden patrons who had been denied the composer's Philemon et Baucis, pinched by the Theatre-Lyrique in Paris in the sunburst of fame that followed Faust in 1859.

Star wattage remained high for La colombe, even if this was a substitute. Gounod could draw on a libretto by Carre and Barbier (Faust, Les contes d'Hoffmann); his leading lady, Caroline Miolan-Carvalho, was also the first Marguerite in Faust (and would go on to sing Juliette in Romeo et Juliette);, and Emile Balanque, the original Mephistopheles, took on the part of Maitre Jean.

Lyrical and gently melodic though the score may be, the opera has no numbers that are wildly memorable. Its chief pleasure is how sweetly Gounod writes for his quartet of singers, while scene-setting instrumental numbers have ephemeral delicacy. That the opera has been neglected is partly down to its particular combination of speech and song--this is not so much operetta as character comedy in which performers well-versed in the style would have carried most of the burden. …

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