Magazine article Gramophone

Bizet: Djamileh

Magazine article Gramophone

Bizet: Djamileh

Article excerpt

Bizet

Djamileh

Jennifer Feinstein sop   Djamileh
Eric Barry ten           Haroun
George Mosley bar        Splendiano
Piotr Kaminski spkr      Merchant

Poznan Chamber Choir; Poznan Philharmonic Orchestra / Lukasz Borowicz Dux (F) DUX1412 (68' * DDD) Recorded live at the Philharmonic Concert Hall, Warsaw, April 4-6, 2017 Includes synopsis, libretto and translation

The general consensus is that Bizet's first mature work is a decent piece of music but not such a great opera, due largely to Louis Gallet's static, character-deficient libretto after Alfred de Musset's of-its-time story Namouna. On this evidence, that sounds about right. But opinion might have moved on with respect to Bizet's importing of Oriental elements into his three-hander telling of a caliph falling for one of his monthly mistresses. Hanslick and others believed the composer had done so tastefully. Yes, there are examples of that--as in the melisma-strewn aria that oscillates on the Aeolian scale as the title character spins Haroun a lovefuelled yam to soften him up--but there are a good few that sound awkwardly close to caricature (mostly when the chorus is involved).

When Bizet isn't feeling the need to almost literally spice it up, the exoticism of his score is undoubtedly one of its key strengths. That is evoked through unusual phrase shapes, evocative instrumentation (including an offstage chorus evoking a sunset over the Nile), a distinct form of sensuality that modulates with sliding ease and some heated harbingers of Carmen. …

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